"The Pose Begins When You Want To Leave It," Working Hard and Letting Go
So I've been slacking lately. It feels like I'm as busy as humanly possible, but I've been neglecting my body big time.
For the last several weeks, yoga classes have taken a back seat to just about everything else (and I won't go into it, but my eating habits could definitely use some adjusting too). But I decided to make myself stay and practice after work on Thursday night. Like usual when I practice reluctantly, I ended up relishing in every pose, every message, every bead of sweat.
I was feeling so empowered that I got my butt to a noon class the next day too. I felt on top of the world when I laid out my mat, but just a few minutes into practicing and the critical voices began to bubble up in my brain.
"Ugh, why are we in this pose so long?"
"What's wrong with you, why do you let your mind keep wandering?"
"Hello, you're supposed to be feeling every moment, not thinking about stupid shit, enlighten already!"
These nasty voices continued to loop in my head, and I continued to try to force them away. Remembering to treat myself with kindness would help briefly, but this would almost immediately dissipate and bow down to negative thoughts again.
"What is she doing holding these poses for so long? Can't she see we're struggling?"
"Why did I come to class? What could I be doing instead?"
This continued for the first 45 minutes of the hour-long class. Yes, I know the time, because I stepped out to blow my nose after allowing my thoughts to obsess over the idea for several sequences of poses.
More time wasted not thinking about the class I was in, something else to scold myself for.
Finally, my train of thought derailed and got completely stuck, entirely wrapped up in the circling thought,
"Why is she doing this to me??"
"She" is not only a wonderful instructor at my studio, but my coworker, neighbor, and friend. As much as I adore her, I was having a hard time appreciating this class. My yoga practice forte reveals itself when the sequences resemble a dance, having fluid ongoing transitions, always moving forward. But when it comes time to hold a pose, to sit with myself in an uncomfortable place for so long, I struggle.
Anyway, after listening to my own belittling thoughts for too long, finally, with unstable limbs and a tight chest, I sank down and admitted defeat, and took a child's pose.
But right away I knew this was not enough. My body longed to sprawl out, to surrender. Before my ego could talk me out of it, I gently plopped down on my belly, let go of every engaged muscle, and started to focus on my breath.
And I was breathing,
and b r e a t h i n g.
As I finally achieved deep breaths for the first time this class, the scowl I had been wearing faded, and a small grin of contentment creeped up on me. This, this is what I needed, to slow down, especially when all I wanted to do was go go go.
Oh! Wait! Wait wait wait wait wait!
It finally hit me that my instructor wasn't doing anything to me. For better or worse, our teachers in life can only push us as far as we are willing to push ourselves. I was convinced the instructor should see she was pushing too hard here, but of course, the only person that knew what I needed was me.
I just had a powerful practice the night before, my body wasn't used to the pace of class anymore, and I have been exhausting myself in my daily life so much that draining myself physically was not what I needed that day.
In that moment of realization, my love for myself, my teacher, and every other human being in that studio taking care of themselves grew like the Grinch's heart on Christmas. Tears welled up in my eyes, and I allowed myself to feel everything happening in that moment.
And it surprised me to realize that there was so much happening even though my body was no longer in motion. My chest was still rising and falling with each breath, proving that I was alive, I was there, and I was brave enough to show up and learn something about myself...
The epiphany unfolded, and I realized if it came so easily to blame my teacher, my friend, for me pushing myself too far, then how often am I blaming other external factors for my own reluctance slow down?
I've been submersing myself with mantras, chants, meditation, Reiki, and deep contemplation the past few weeks, with the goal of finally realizing how to slow down and rest. I can't remember the last time I didn't feel burnt out, and it really hit me lately how much I have no idea where to even start.
I'm honestly feeling pretty lost, and skeptical about having the knowledge I need to rewire my brain and my body. But now, at least I know something new. I know that I sometimes blame other people and events for my life being so hectic. I am reminded that I am in control of my life. I won't always be able to decide what happens to me, but I know that those things aren't actually happening to me, to my soul, to that inner child at my core, they're just happening around my physical being, and I can choose my own reaction to them.
And of course this reaction does not have to be filled with criticism and scolding, as this class proves I am learning to grow from a place of love.
Another instructor and dear friend passed along these simple but immaculate words after her powerful class the night before. She encouraged,
"Do what feels right for your soul."
These words were powerful tools. Instead of listening to my ego, my anxiety, or others around me, I can take a moment to stop and notice how my soul is feeling.
There are always going to be things that need done: phone calls to make, dishes to clean, errands to run. But, instead of only thinking about what work to do next all the time, when possible, I can just choose to do what feels good.
As I continue to learn more about myself, I'm thrilled to discover new ways of letting go. I am eager for this new version of my journey, letting go of unnecessary obligations, undeserved blame, and a lifetime of stress without rest.