I’m one of these people that just loves to clean up messes. Take in strays. Fix people. Put everyone else first and focus on the potential rather than the damage being done currently. And as you can probably guess, this hasn’t worked for me or any of my “projects.”
I’ve spent a lot of time reflecting on why this is since I began my yoga practice, as I typically feel most drawn to the mat when I’m going through some shit. See, anyone who knows me well, knows I have a track record of shitty relationships. And since another one just ended, I spent last Friday night Netflixing The Perks of Being a Wallflower with my parents. There was a scene that slapped me in the face (in a good way):
But whatever brings people to yoga — whether it’s a physical reason such as a desire to lose weight, complement your time at the gym, heal an injury or gain flexibility, or a more internal motivation to heal your heart from a loss, addiction or breakup — the yoga is going to start working on you. It’s going to start enlightening you. It’s going to make you strong on the outside and therefore strong on the inside. It’s going to make you love yourself. And no matter what got you on your mat, as long as you’re there you’re doing it right.
I’m very fortunate in that I’ve never had any serious physical ailments that have demanded or challenged my practice (other than instability, inflexibility, etc.) My reasons were more internal. Things like self-esteem, body image and anxiety. At first it was like a chore: I’d be busy at the office all day and try to finish up and run over to the studio still in full-on, ego-charged work mode. Never finding softness, never tapping into the meditative side of yoga and never opening the lines of communication between my body and mind. I would think about how friggin’ hot it was, or how inflexible or bloated I was, and when I looked in the mirror I was comparing myself to everyone else.
But when I was drawn to the mat because I was trying to really heal myself internally (recent history includes quitting my job this past winter with some major fear of judgement issues and lack of support, and obviously a few failed relationships) the yoga started working on me. I became more and more aware of my body by allowing my physical movements to communicate with my thoughts. Sound crazy? Try relaxing your eyebrows right now. Just do it. Chances are you’re looking at a bright screen. Maybe your phone and you’re unconsciously straining the muscles around your eyes. How much better did that feel? Now do lift your chin up, close your eyes, and do it again.
Now when I look in the mirror, everyone around me is a blur. All I hear is my heartbeat and my teacher’s instruction as if it were coming from a faraway cave. My gaze is balanced between looking inwards and outwards into the fiery eyes of my own reflection. Throughout all of these what could seem like “setbacks,” I have not felt discouraged or afraid. My last relationship actually ended on decent terms, because I was able to trust my intuitions through yoga and the self-reflection and self-love it induces. I was able to know what I deserve. And I knew before it ended that I would be okay; I had yoga and I was grateful even through the toughest moments. It’s that feeling of reassurance, just like knowing your family and friends always have your back, no matter what.
Last week, I discovered that yoga can literally be a shoulder to cry on, when I cried a little during my Vinyasa practice. Sometimes the conversation between body and mind starts off a little intensely. “Camel Pose” Ustrasana for example, is known to be one of the deepest heart-opening postures that trigger all kinds of emotional responses. And although it’s a back bend, it doesn’t require an excessive amount of strength or balance or flexibility. Yet there are days when all I have to do is lift my chest up and cactus my arms, and my heart feels vulnerable.
If music is what feelings sound like, then yoga is what feelings actually feel like. Which is a killer combo to heal the heart: music and physical release. Sometimes after a breakup all you wanna do is stay in your room and blast Sinead O’Connor’s “Nothing Compares to You”. Now imagine doing that to a heart-opening yoga flow. The point is, pouring rubbing alcohol on a cut you got while rock climbing hurts like a mofo, but that’s how you know it’s working. And even though it hurts to heal it, that’s not going to prevent you from climbing again another day. Knowing I have yoga in my medicine cabinet and the ability to heal my heart, and the knowledge that I can then go out there and keep loving and be deserving of love in return is one of the most reassuring feelings in the world.
“So, I guess we are who we are for a lot of reasons. And maybe we’ll never know most of them. But even if we don’t have the power to choose where we come from, we can still choose where we go from there. We can still do things. And we can try to feel okay about them.”
― The Perks of Being a Wallflower