It’s been a rough several months for me. Maybe i’ve mentioned this. I’ve been struggling with my health, dealing with relationship troubles, faltering classes, community drama, etc… I’ve considered the possibility that i’m just over-focusing on the “bad” stuff, but looking back with an objective eye, i don’t think that’s the case. Life has been throwing me some serious curveballs. I went through a pretty intense year of transformation and evolution, and then had about six weeks of ease before the first in a series of injuries and illnesses. I keep thinking, “Oh, this will be the last thing. This is so hard, this has got to be it.” That’s what i thought after the stomach flu. now i’m going through another round of challenge, the most difficult yet.
I don’t know how i’d be getting through any of this without my yoga practice. After 8 years of practicing, i’ve learned a few things that have made me into a person who can handle all of this.
I am strong. Virabadrasana I. Vasistasana. Handstand. 3-hour agni practices with Shiva Rea. Breakthrough after breakthrough.
I am centered. Vrksasana. Headstand. Pincha mayurasana. I can fall over and get back up.
I am powerful. I can manage my energy and direct it in ways that serve me. Learning that i can do this is the only way i ever managed bakasana.
I can ask for help. I am surrounded by people who are more practiced than i am (in yoga, and in life) and it is a gift to be able to tap their wisdom – i’ve learned not to pass up this opportunity. Even if it means that i have to sift out some less useful stuff.
When we realize we are the ocean, we are no longer afraid of the waves. Or, for every action there is an equal and inverse reaction. Good things come and go, bad things come and go, life comes and goes. We rise, we fall. I am a blip on the universe’s radar screen. The universe exists within and without, we are at our core as endless as the night sky, whatever is happening in this moment is even less of a blip than my individual existence. This too shall pass.
“You can survive any loss,” the old man whispered, “if you delight in whatever is left to you.” I am in control of what i focus on. Even when i feel like i’m dissolving, there are apple blossoms on the trees, or people who love me, or a good book to lose myself in. I do not have to drown in what’s painful. I can take any experience, even something as mundane as the texture of the carpet under my bare feet, and make it into a delightful, sensual experience. That doesn’t make my pain less painful, but i get to decide how deeply i wind myself up in it. And, when i’m feeling pain, it helps to at least remember a feeling of joy or delight, even when it might seem light years away.
BREATHE. The breath is always there. Always. Focusing on the breath is the fastest way that i know to get out from under a cycle of negative self-talk, to get out of a thought-loop, to come back to the present moment. The present moment is usually not so bad. The breath is a visceral reminder of the cyclical nature of life.
MOVE. When i feel really stuck, it helps to move, whether it’s asana or dance or stomping my feet, movement helps me catalyze whatever i might be holding. We learn early on in a yoga practice that emotions are held in the body and moving the body can stir them around. Sometimes that’s more intense than i might have bargained for, but i’m freer in the end.
Let go. This comes in in several ways. I can let go of what i feel – i don’t have to get wound up in my emotions, but i do let myself feel them. I give myself space to experience them. Then i let them go. I can let go of my attachment to anything other than what is. I can try to force things to be different, or i can work with what i’ve got. What i’ve got is what i’ve got, and i can either get all het up about it, or i can just keep growing. I can let go of whatever i’m holding onto, physically or emotionally – and so often it’s both. This morning during my meditation practice i realized i was clenching my abdominal muscles. I let go, which wasn’t easy, and i felt a huge rush of prana flood up from my center and with it a wave of anger and sadness. I kept breathing, made some sound, experienced it, and let it go.
So, all that is to say… how does a yogi deal with a broken heart/ankle/trust/whatever? Practice, practice.