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The Hanged Man; Let's Get Physical!

Updated: Nov 4, 2022

One of the magical things about the tarot, is how the cards can be very present in your life and in quite literal ways. I have recently taken up aerial yoga and I am loving every minute of it. Hanging upside down in aerial pigeon pose (see farthest below) I chuckled to myself at how uncannily similar it is to the Hanged Man.

But it’s not just appearances. Often we read the Hanged Man as things having being turned on their head, a shift has taken place and there is an invitation to look at things from a new perspective. It can represent a time to pause, to take stock and re-orientate one’s life and who we think we are.

Just as The Hanged Man benefits from being flipped on his head so that he can realign and find a new direction forward, the inversion poses of aerial yoga are particularly beneficial for re-aligning our spine, the source and conduit of our energy, that determines, literally and otherwise, which direction we move in.

Aerial yoga is a surprisingly holistic experience too. It invites very different aspects of me to show up, including a part of me that is usually very reluctant to - the spontaneous, risk taker. Entwined in the vines of vibrant silks suspended from a ceiling, I am asked, like an acrobat, to fling myself forwards, backwards, to leap and to fall, trusting that the silks will hold fast and I will not dive bomb into the carpet, nose first.

The author in Aerial Pigeon Pose

at Yoga Savitri

I ought to make it very clear at this point that derring-do activity is REALLY not my thing. Skiing is sheer lunacy to me, hurtling down a mountainside at high speed, feet locked into two long strips of wood. The thought of plunging into oceans or rivers for a freezing, Wim Hof style swim leaves me cold. I don’t even like riding a bicycle downhill! Yet with aerial yoga, I find my usual granite-hard, breeze block of fear dissolving into trust like ancient sandstone crumbling into a warm desert dust. How is this possible? Well, I think it’s because the aerial silks are a wonderful cocoon. At every session, instead of lying on unyielding ground to practice a pose like Shavasana, I am wrapped in a silken chrysalis, gently rocking. Held as if in the arms of the Divine Mother herself, my nervous system calms, muscles lose their memory, they relax, my mind empties as my breath slows to sweetness.

I have been listening a lot lately to lectures by the late, great Jungian analyst Marion Woodman who talks about how crucial it is that a chrysalis of change be absolutely safe enough to support radical, transformative growth. A caterpillar has to dissolve into mush in order to change into what will eventual become a butterfly. At aerial yoga I find myself able to move beyond some of my most crippling fears (heights, humiliation anyone?), fears that typically turn my stomach to complete mush, in a way that feels natural and easy.

And as I move onward through my personal journey of transformation, I marvel at how I am being held both literally and metaphorically in this silken chrysalis. It is no coincidence that The Hanged Man has come up so many times in my daily tarot practice in recent months. I am in awe of all this, marvelling at the unseen threads that have woven together so magically to cradle and support this change. In awe, with love and gratitude.

The Hanged Man in the Insight Tarot deck

Anita is learning Aerial Yoga at the wonderful Yoga Savitri.

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