Over the last few weeks, I’ve been taking time to rediscover my yoga practice and to reimagine it for what I need at this point in my life. There have been many, many mornings where I’ve literally been sitting with tough emotions during 5:45 a.m. meditations (just because we welcomed a life transition doesn’t make it easy!) for 30 minutes or so at a time.
There are days when I think I have it all together, and then I come to the mat to get still, be quiet, move, breathe, journal…and then I’ve felt this pang of longing for the past that sends me into uncertainty. I’ll be folded into pigeon pose for five minutes or so, and the tears will start to fall (the hips are a space where we hold emotion). I’ll be still in a legs up the wall and my mind will start to fill with doubt. Why am I writing to you about this? When you’re probably like, Oh get over this move already? I’m writing because I firmly believe we practice yoga to feel. And, to feel it all. The joy, the freedom, but also the sorrow, the frustration. We learn to take what we need and release the rest, but not before experiencing it. Feeling it. However painful “it” may be.
Just recently, I had the chance to practice Anusara yoga with Sara Davidson Flanders at a Rhode Island studio. She reminded me of the continuous cycle that is an individual yoga practice. Sara shared with us that in the beginning weeks of a new yoga practice, we often feel great. We find more flexibility. We feel a bit stronger. We are calmer. We may sleep better. Then, as we continue to practice, yoga becomes harder…not necessarily physically, but mentally because we become aware. We become aware of our emotions, our thought patterns, our belief systems and how they are affecting our very states of being. You guys, I wanted to hug her.
It’s SO TRUE. I see it all the time. I work with students who proclaim how good their bodies feel, how they can do plank, and hold downward dog for five long breaths. And, then? Emotions start to bubble to the surface. Things we don’t want to deal with. Emotions that get to the root causes of our stress and anxiety. We start to learn the philosophy behind the asana and realize that some it goes against what we’ve believed in life. And, that can be a scary place or a freeing one or both.
But, I beg you to please keep going. Don’t stop when yoga gets hard. Don’t stop when you start to feel something, because that actually means you’re getting somewhere deeper. When you keep practicing, you learn to become aware of why you feel the way you do, why and how that’s showing up physically in your body, but you learn to not BECOME that emotion. You do not become sadness or anger. You do not take out your pain on another. You let it transform you. You let those emotions teach you.
I’m begging you to keep going because your acts of inward and outer peace has a ripple effect. Your practice inspires others to learn about it, too. What would a world look like if more practiced yoga? If more understood the deep layers of how to live better, using postures as a tool?
As I write, tears fill my eyes because of the recent violence at a yoga studio in Tallahassee, Florida. While we were not super close, I studied yoga with the teacher of that class. We’ve sat in the same room in Camp Hill, Pa. We’ve taught each other. We never imagined something like this could ever happen. This wasn’t part of our training.
Allow your personal practice to support you in times of pain and times of supreme joy. Keep going when yoga gets hard or you get too busy or life happens. That’s when we all need it the most. If more had the tools of this beloved practice, could we prevent violence against other humans? Could we prevent turning emotion into physical harm? Could we learn to experience and release in other ways? I sincerely believe so.
Keep going, dear friends. Allow your pain, confusion, anger, frustration to be acknowledged, but not to become who you are. You are love. You came from love. Practice to always remember that. Thank you to, Sara, for this beautiful reminder. Thank you for reading. As always, I adore hearing from you. Do you recall a moment where practicing yoga made you uncomfortable? I’d love to hear about your experience.
P.S. This Saturday at 8:30 a.m., we are holding a special donation Slow Flow practice for Hot Yoga Tallahassee. All proceeds will be donated to the Florida studio. I’ll be in town to guide a heart centered practice full of meditation, breath, and the joy of movement. I hope you’ll join me and Sierra (who will be offering hands-on assists) in celebration of love, community, and support for our Florida family. If you aren’t in the Lewisburg area for class, please consider a donation through this Go Fund Me page. I hope you’ll join me on Saturday. Register below.