I have a confession to make. I had been neglecting my Yoga practice. But not in a benign neglect kind of way…more like a blatant disregard for it entirely.
Other than instructing a few classes on the beach last summer, I did not feel comfortable taking the seat of the teacher during the divorce. Divorce is a constant state of utter chaos…emotional, physical, and spiritual chaos. During which time, it was a struggle to hold space for myself, my children, or my now ex-husband. I definitely did not have the strength and fortitude required to be grounded and centered enough to hold it for a multitude of other people. I strongly believe that when we “show up” to teach a class, part of our job is to properly hold the space for students that are going through their own transformations…be it the experience on their mat in their bodies, or the metamorphosis that occurs when one is courageous enough to take their practice out into their lives and the world.
I suppose, like a tortoise who finds it’s world spinning a bit out of control, I retreated into my shell. I drew in my flailing appendages, held on for dear life, and practiced pranayama and prayer until things became a bit more still. Kurmasana was my jam.
I went to the gym, “headphones in, world off”, in an attempt to muscle through my emotions. I went hiking to commune with nature. To get fresh air and sunshine and worship the Earth with my feet. I meditated, sometimes an hour a day, seeking solace in the escape and healing.
And then, finally, a couple of months ago, I signed up to take an online class with one of my favorite instructors. The moment that I took a seat on my mat, I started to cry. I started to cry and I couldn’t stop. If I had never witnessed similar phenomena happen to other humans during or after Yoga, I am not certain that I would have known what to do. I just kept practicing and crying, the entire time.
It was almost as though my entire being was just waiting for me to be still enough to finally “feel” all the heaviness and the grief…the gravity of our current world situation. And in doing so, causing me to, or at the very least, giving me permission to grieve again for all the lost and broken things…
One of my favorite poems is “The Invitation”, within which she writes:
“I want to know
if you can sit with pain
mine or your own
without moving to hide it
or fade it
or fix it.”
Whether you are taking the seat as a student or as an instructor, yoga is different. Yoga demands that you show up, fully and present, in your body. I now understand that this was the subconscious reason for my hiatus from teaching and practicing. And now I am more capable of wrapping my head around why some humans dislike Yoga or avoid it entirely. They cannot or will not sit still with the pain, the emotions, themselves.
Yoga is how we discover that it is possible to locate extra sips of oxygen in tight places. Yoga is where we learn to sit with discomfort. We don’t move to fade it or fix it. Instead, we move to process it and integrate it, and transmute it, so that it does not remain stagnant in our cells. We begin to discern the difference between where we require fortification and where extreme softness might be a more applicable strategy. Yoga invites pause. And in that space, an invitation to choose between reactivity and responsiveness.
When this whole mess began, my initial reaction was that of a scared animal. I froze. I got low to the ground and quiet. On some level, subconsciously, I felt as though if I could just be “still” enough and hold my breathe, all the mayhem would, hopefully, pass on by. Clearly, that was not the case. It was all just waiting for me, on the other side of a nasty brier patch of uncertainty and fear.
Our practice is our stillness.
We need to practice. Practice patience, yoga, meditation, poetry, ukulele…whatever it is that helps us find the stillness required to distill the day into decipherability. Create the space within the architecture of our physicality and our Spirit, where we are able to feel and release and digest our current reality into tiny, manageable bits. We cannot wait for the stillness to find us, we must create it within ourselves.