Last week I was once again sweating it all out in class. My heart was hammering out of my chest and the puddle around my mat was increasing in size and depth to the point that I was aware that it might start sliding down to the mat and person next to me.
Coming upon Full Locust Pose, I put my arms out to the side like airplane wings as instructed, rolled my eyes up to the ceiling and lifted my body off of the floor. As I came out of the first set I felt slightly nauseous and my heart rate had climbed to a wild dance beat rhythm that would only be appropriate at a hip new club or the later hours at a wedding reception.
“Second set, you’ve got this!” I thought to myself as I positioned my arms out away from me once again. And that’s when I felt it. Fear. A metal taste filled my mouth and I felt a magnetic pull towards the floor, my jaw tightening with the silly sickness of it.
“Oh, hell no,” I thought and once again lifted up in defiance of this gut-renching feeling. Coming out of the posture 20-seconds later I could feel the fear leaving my body, burning off like gas fumes as I lay in complete stillness. Upon completing the class, I felt lighter in a new way, as if I had lost 10 lbs. in 90-minutes.
To me this is no surprise. Over the past 10 years of my practice I have become acquainted with myself in ways that no other “workout” really allows. Honing in on my breath, noticing my habits, and meeting my own two eyes in the mirror day after day gives you a new perspective and awareness of everything that encompasses the word, “me.”
I have met fear before. It’s there when I go deeper in my back bending practice or when I am working once again on inversions, which scare me like nothing else. I know what it feels like in my body and my mind and I know not to ignore it, but to take its advice, proceed with caution, and possibly go beyond it.
I feel the same way about my old friends, anxiety, anger, and sadness. They pop up while I’m practicing now and then and check in, say hello, and ask if they can hang around for a while. I know the way they feel in my body because of my yoga practice. I breathe through them, process them, and move on to feel and be lighter.
We have so many unprocessed emotions. These are feelings we were not allowed to feel when we should have. It would have been embarrassing to cry at work. It would have been inappropriate to be angry in public. You would have been seen as weak and vulnerable if you expressed your fear. So we block the emotions from rising and feel as if we stuff them down and out of sight. And that’s exactly what we did, we hid them, we stuffed them down into dark places, but they’re still there, ready to be expressed and finally processed up and out of the body.
That’s why I see student’s eyes start to smart as they open their hips up in Triangle Pose, or give me that I-am-going-to-puke look as they come out of Camel Pose. They are finally releasing these old buried emotions. They are finally not ignoring the feelings, but pulling the feelings up and out of their body.
Do I sound like a new age, crazy person to you yet? That’s okay. For me, developing awareness, not only of my body, but my thoughts and emotions is the number one benefit of a regular yoga practice. It’s why I find my toes and heels together and my eyes staring back at me in the mirror day after day as I embark on another 90-minutes in the hot room.
Because of this, I always find it interesting when someone talks to me about my work as a yoga instructor as if I teach aerobics or jazzercise. Yes, it is a way to stay fit and healthy. But for me, yoga is way more than a workout. It’s a work in. You might see me as a fitness professional, and in some ways I am, but I know that yoga will give you more than a tighter core, or toned legs. My goal, when I take the podium, is to give you more than a workout. I’m here to try and give you the best work-in you’ll ever have.
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