Notes from the Barre: The Limitations of Tension


Tension, Madeline Bea

I do a lot of knitting. And through these years of knitting, I’ve gotten to know a lot about yarn. I intimately know the magic that turns string into something beautiful and/or usable. But I also know that yarn has a certain way about it and it needs to be handled carefully. Once it’s tangled, it seems to start evolving on its own around that one tangle until its just an absolute mass of knots and tangles and pretty much good for nothing except being a big ‘ole matted mass of string. Conversely, I know that if that same yarn is kept tangle free and if small knots are tended to as they occur, that the potential of that yarn to be something amazing, comforting, warming, and beautiful is exponential.

Our bodies are a lot like yarn in this way…as are our emotional lives. If we have knots and tension in our bodies, our physical range of motion is limited and our performance at any physical task is hindered. If our emotional lives are tangled, our potential for what we’re able to do and accomplish in this world is limited. But with every knot, tangle, and source of tension we work out; we liberate the energy and momentum that had been held within it.

The other thing I know (deeply) about yarn is that, if and when there is a tangle, you absolutely, under no circumstances, can just simply pull at it to get it to release. Before you know it, you can have a mass of thickly (and, let’s face it, probably permanently) knotted string that you might as well throw out. To release the tangles in a ball of yarn, you need to sit with it patiently and examine and work out each source of tension and each knot along the way. It’s time consuming and not for the faint of heart…but it’s the only way to save the yarn. By being as careful and thoughtful with our physical and emotional stress, think of how much more fluidly we could make our way through the world.

There is no road map to tell us where these knots and tangles are in our physical and emotional bodies, we have to feel our way both to them and out of them. Most often, the feeling that let’s us know we’ve hit a snag is pain. Rumi tells us “What hurts you, blesses you. Darkness is your candle.” Pain guides our awareness to specific places so that we can sit with all our individual knots and smooth out our life thread so the Universe can keep knitting our lives into something really beautiful and usable. It’s hard work, and believing in the importance of your work here, of what you have the capacity to create with your life, is what will give you the strength to keep sitting with all that tangled yarn.

May we have the strength to sit with our knots, tangles, and tension and work through them gently and diligently so that we can be expressive both with our bodies and our lives!



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