The beauty and the beast of yoga appear to be showing itself to me in my Ashtanga practice. Don’t get me wrong, I love my practice (in a detached not bothered kinda way) but recently it has been tearing me apart. Quite literally, I have been fighting the tears during my regular class, slumping on my mat at home and dissolving into a mass of whimpers and splutters.
I thought yoga was supposed to make you strong?
I started the second series at the start of the year and it appears that those intense backbends may have been releasing all kinds of emotions that had been hidden away down there for several years. My hip sockets are opening up and from deep down in the dark corners, more emotional ‘stuff’ that I had hidden is emerging.
The beast of Ashtanga yoga is the fact that you have to go through this period where quite simply your life falls apart. You are stripped bare of your old defense mechanisms, old walls are knocked down and bridges to our ‘safe’ hiding places are burnt.The beauty of Ashtanga Yoga is that fact that it purifies you from the inside out. It clears away all those stored toxins, it flushes out your nervous system and your lymph glands, ‘just like flushing a toilet’ (an old teacher of mine once said – not the nicest description but it gives a good clear image of the effect.
It leaves you with nowhere to hide.
You are forced to deal with the emotions that you have been storing up in various parts of your body and trying to avoid dealing with. By accessing parts of your lower spine or getting right down into your hip sockets you literally force out anything that has been hiding in there.They say it is why we get stiff in certain areas of the body because we have hidden emotional ‘stuff’ there. Things we don’t want to look at or address. Negative experiences leave a trace on the physical body, causing not only a mental scar but also a physical one. Yoga accesses these areas and gets things flowing once more, but in order to do so, you have to empty out the blockages.
I described my recent experience to a non-yogi friend and it went something like this…
“I feel like a saw a drain that had a few leaves blocking the entrance, so I started to clear the leaves and then noticed some mud under the grate, I dug a little deeper and cleared that, only to discover some nasty slime blocking it a little deeper still. Before I knew it I was on my hands and knees covered in muck, shoulder deep in smelly slimey stuff wishing I had never started this job in the first place! I feel like I have got right down to the darkest, deepest, smelliest part of the drain and it’s the worst part so far. I know that if I keep going then it will be worth it and that the drain will be completely unblocked and the water will run freely and smoothly and it will operate at its optimum – but right now; I am wishing I had just left those leaves where they were!”
That is what my yoga practice has done to me!
I have been dragging up all sorts of dark memories, events that I wish had never happened, things that I never really dealt with or even knew how to deal with. I have cried in Shavasana, I have wept through the Surya Namaskara’s and from start to finish. I have had to fight back tears that I could not control. I have curled up in Kurmasana rolled around like a turtle stuck on her back in yoganidrasana. I have fallen head over heels backward in Kapotasana and face planted in Pincha Mayurasana.
I had memories of leaving yoga feeling blissed out and being in love with life, and now I struggle to find the courage to smile at myself.
I know that it will pass and that I will be happier than I have ever been before once all the clearing has been done. Cleaning is like that, it is never nice at the start but by the end, it is oh so satisfying and rewarding and then you can enjoy the new sparkle that your life has.
I am trying to look at my current situation and find the positives – so here goes….
In amongst my sorrow, I have found how to deal with feeling vulnerable instead of being overly defensive and harsh. I have found a new softness that I can treat myself with and other people too. That’s not a bad thing. My mantra for this was ‘bring the softness back’.
I have learned how to send enemies good feelings and noticed how much nicer that feels inside of me. By sending difficult or challenging people loving kindness can change the emotions that you are clinging to about certain people or situations.
I have taken a bad situation and made it into a positive one. I have battled with rejection and found that the root of the rejection was love and learned that sometimes people think they are doing the ‘right’ thing but to someone else it comes across as completely the wrong thing: but if you can begin to see things from a different perspective then you can see the good intentions behind wrong doings.
I have finally accepted that we all make mistakes and that doesn’t make us better or worse than someone else’s mistake, it just means that we all make mistakes. Real forgiveness is hard. Really hard. Forgiving yourself for acting in certain ways or making specific decisions is not an easy task, but it is the only way to let go of emotional baggage that will fester inside of you and eventually make you physically unwell.
To forgive another for hurting you is extremely healing for both parties involved. To acknowledge the pain that you have caused and to admit to that suffering is also something worth taking your hat off to. Not many people have the strength to do that and many people hide behind excuses and false justifications all their life. Sometimes just to say “I know I hurt you and I am sorry” is so much more powerful.
Acknowledging pain is also extremely hard, to admit to exactly what it is that hurt is admitting to our own vulnerabilities – which we as humans don’t like to do. But by acknowledging your own pain gives you great insight into how to prevent yourself from making the same mistakes over and over again.
Also sometimes asking for acknowledgment of your own pain is totally and utterly acceptable. I have found that I ‘punish’ people for hurting me. I hit them with a ‘you hurt me’ stick that I never seem to let go off. I found that by asking for acknowledgment of the pain that they had caused me, not making them feel guilty for it or dumping the load on them, just asking up front for plain and simple acknowledgment meant that I could finally put the stick down.
Wow! Has my clearing been worth it? Oh, my! Yes indeed. Sometimes when we are lost on a path, struggling through the darkness it is hard to see just how much ground you have covered. It is not until the sun comes up and as the light shines down on the path that you have walked, are you able to recognize just how far you have come.
Spiritual growth is like that. Growth hurts. And sometimes it is long and extremely painful. The yoga beast is wild and untamed but my oh my, he holds and creates such beauty.