Yoga practice is a lot like Love. It includes light, but also darkness. The Yoga path is like a relationship often with obstacles, slipping and falling, and tumbling your way through. It is a beautiful path to finding your true self, but its not always such a pretty one.
After the first approximate 3 months, I also call it the Honeymoon phase, many people find themselves chasing after that bliss that they first felt when they be practicing yoga. Just like many of us in relationships. We spend a lot of time thinking back to “when we first met” and “how great things were.” It is not until you dig down deeper than just the surface that things start to come up. The Yoga path has layers. The deer you go and the deer you take your practice, the closer you get to the hidden layers. If embroidered this can be a truly beautiful experience allowing you to get passed many issues that were never fully deal with in the past. You can find your happiness and finally let go of all the things that have been holding you back.
Our physical body protects us. Our bones, muscles, tissues, and skin are strong and hold us together. From the moment we are born, we have these body parts to rely on that keep us whole. As we get through life, things happen and events take place. As we grow each and every day, we experience the world. We fill ourselves with beautiful experiences as well as stressful ones. The great experiences are often easily digested. They happen, they are great, and we move on, and sometimes we look back and miss them. It is the bad experiences that neither our mind nor body fully digests. So where do they go? If not processed, accepted, or fully deal with these undigested experiences are pushed into our body, deeper than we know. They stay there and they take up space. Over the years we collect these undigested experiences and we limit the space in our body and our mind. As finite beings, we only have so much vacant space available to us. If we use up all our space, we become employed in both our mind and body. By being filled up with negative, undigested experiences, we no longer have any room for new experiences. We find ourselves unable to feel joy in the things that we used to. We breakdown more easily, always feel angry or stressed, and we suffer. Our body feels tight, we have pain and discomfort in our muscles, and we are not flexible. Flexibility in the body and the mind requires space. Suffering for a long period of time causes illness and disease. It begins to affect our health in all aspects. Illness and disease only push us further into feeling even worse, but they are our body's way of telling us that we are imbalanced and that attention needs to be paid. When we can not consciously see our imbalance, our body physically tells us and physically stops us from going further. A car who breaks do not work can only be stopped by great impact. This is what illness and disease are for us, they are the impact that we are physically stopped by when we are going too fast.
Our body and mind can not always deal with life experiences and so they are often pushed deep into us. Sometimes so deep that we forget they even exist. We move on and leave that space filled and think that we “got over” that experience. As we age, we find that our body “just does not move the way that it used to,” or “can not bend that way anymore.” We start to have back pain, neck pain, and overall pain everywhere from our lack of mobility or attention. What the problem really is, is that we we no longer have space. We are no longer flexible because we have run out of room for carrying all our baggage. We are the most active and light when we are children simply because as children we have more space to carry undigested experience and life has not yet fully “happened.” As things happen, we start to push issues deep into our body without even realizing and for years they remain dormant. Sometimes they appear to us when triggered by events that are similar to those issues, like when we tend to overreact in given situations or “lash out” at others. We are really reacting to the bigger, undealt with issues that have been triggered.
When tuning into our Yoga practice, we are bringing attention to our body. We are navigating through its channels. Our body is our home and it is where all of our experiences are stored. Sometimes things in our home are hidden deep behind the shelves, or in between the corners of the sofa. They are only found by accident when we are looking for something else or when we just happened to come across them years later. When practicing Yoga, we take our direct and full attention to ourselves and it does happen that we stumble across dusty old objects that flash back memories or seem familiar to us from the past. Things we did not even know we had or had completely forgotten about because they happened so long ago. They come up, ever. They re-surface and bring with them the emotions and feelings that were attached to them as well. Like when you find a toy from your childhood that you used to love so much. You find yourself just holding it and staring at the object in awe and playing back events from your childhood as memories of what the object meant to you. Things that we hold sacred to us have meant to us and allow us to hold them in a special place in our hearts, but we often leave them there while we are occupied and sometimes even forget about them. This happens to us in our Yoga practice. We touch things that we had forgotten about or pushed far away. We sometimes tend to forget that things do not just disappear over time. They may go away for a while when we are busy, when we choose to ignore them or not deal with them, but they exist until we change their meaning and relation to us. An object, memory, or event is only important to us when we attach to them meaning or symbolization. They are like trophies. Once the meaning has changed, we are no longer attached to that object, memory, or event. We are no longer slaves of our past. Our practice allows us to detach from these things, and assign to them new meanings and relationships. Yoga allows us to delve deep into all parts of our body and it is no surprise that we stumble onto memories or undigested experiences that we never really wanted to find again in the first place or even known exhausted.
Many people quit their yoga practice after a few months. When the poses are no longer brand new or when things just stop “feeling good,” we think that we were just caught up in a new hobby and now we got over it. When Yoga no longer makes us feel super energetic, fun, alive but instead makes us feel vulnerable, irritated, or sad we think that it no longer works for us. It is sad to see that many people give up after this point. As natural human animals we avoid pain, we run from our fears, we avoid and ignore things that bring us discomfort because it is easier that way. It is easier to push things inside, hide them from the world, and most of all hide them from yourself and hope that with time they will go away. This is purely natural and a normal reaction that often happens without realization. Our bodies are built to fight and be strong or when unable to fight, run from danger. What we do not realize is that things do not go away on their own, they are simply being covered under other layers as other experiences keep coming in and piling on. They sink in and become buried deep down.
So, is there any hope at all? Are we doomed to live with the things that cause us suffering? Is there a way out of all this undigested madness? There is certainly hope because once we digest things, they no longer take up space and can finally be removed mentally and physically. During our physical Yoga practice, it is common to trigger or come across something deep, hit a wall. It is very common to become emotional on your mat, or feel incredibly angry but not have a real answer as to why. The feelings come suddenly and can sometimes be confusing. “I was just fine, and now I can not stop crying,” or you leave your Yoga class and find yourself bawling on the drive home to a random song on the radio. This happens. It might even happen during practice when you find yourself clenching your jaw, gripping, or silently cursing your Yoga teacher. You are likely in a deep pose, maybe a shoulder opener, hamstring stretch, or even child's pose. We are all different and we also store our experiences in different parts of our body. You see the back bender in class and wonder how it is possible to have such an open heart. Maybe the back bender wonders the same about you and your awesome arm balances. We are all different in our bodies and we are all different in our minds. And so, we store our experiences in different places and different poses tap into those spaces unleashing things that are not so pretty. If not ignored, embracing, accepting, and allowing “stuff” to come up can actually be healing. Crying allows us to release. It means that we are progressing on our path and that we are releasing something very deep within us. It could be that during your practice, while doing that deep hip stretch or awesome backbend you activated an area in your body that you carried an unpleasant experience that had unpleaseless emotions attached to it. You may also trigger a wonderful experience or memory that gives you feelings of happiness. Those of course we love to embrace. We are befits that do not like to voluntarily let go of things especially things that we hold most dearest to us without we are forced to. And when forced to, we do not always deal with the pain that it left behind after loss. The crying that we encounter, the feelings of sadness, and the anger that come up are us grieving for our past. We must grieve over loss and so we are experiencing a true “letting go” experience. Grieving allows us to let go of our past. Of course this is not what we consciously want or choose to feel. We never want to feel pain, but by allowing it to pass through us we are giving it a door to exit through. If embroidered and allowed in, the experience can transform our thoughts allowing us to finally let go, then proceeding to the last step of grief; acceptance. It is not easy to sit there and let yourself cry without trying to stop yourself or provide yourself with explanations. It is not easy to let yourself be angry for no apparent reason. But, no one said that the path to happiness was easy.
“One must acquire flexibility in the mind to acquire flexibility in the body, and one must acquire flexibility in the body to acquire flexibility in the mind.” There is a balance to be found and constant work to be put in. Your Yoga practice gives you back what you put into your practice because your practice is after all your practice and a reflection of yourself. As you become flexible through working your body, you digest and allow your body to have vacancies. When our body has space, we no longer end the physical pain and when our mind has space, we are no longer hanging on our edge or on the verge of snapping. We need space. Our Yoga practice, like many things in the world comes with a positive and a negative. Lightness and darkness. Just like the Sun and the Moon, our Earth would not survive without both and neither would we. There is balance between the good and the bad, light and dark, sun and moon, as we rise, we fall, but we find our way as we stumble across the obstacles on the rocky road.
We will always come across things in our lives that may cause us pain or discomfort, but we must learn to deal with them consciously and let them pass through us as air does, because sooner or later they appear, holding us back and haunting us.