“Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built.” -Rumi
I had my monthly Yoga Teacher Training weekend several weeks ago. While every training weekend leaves me feeling renewed and full of new material for introspection, this most recent one involved an experience that I am still working through internally.
Much of what we learn in class is asana, which is the physical practice of yoga. I really enjoy this part of our training, and I am discovering just how passionate I am about alignment and the mechanics of it all. Over the course of the weekend, we practiced several different poses and learned about the safe way to achieve them, normally breaking up into pairs or groups to assist one another.
At one point Marc, our instructor, informed us that next, we would be working on drop backs with a partner. Drop backs are a form of backbends, and we had warmed up with some less intense heart openers already. I had such an immediate, strange reaction to this that it surprised even myself. I felt panicked and anxious, and had difficulty even fully registering the directions Marc was giving us. Our task was to stand face to face with a partner, with their hands supporting us gently on the small of our back as we slowly bent backward, eventually reaching our arms out to get our hands on the floor. The end result is urdva dhanurasana, or “wheel pose”.
One of my classmates who was near me must have recognized the blatant fear written all over my face, because she approached me with such a calm and soothing demeanor. By this point I was literally sweating.
As she held onto me and I began to try to (extremely) slowly make my descent toward the floor, I felt such an immense surge of anxiety and stress that what I did can’t even be classified as a backbend. When I say I barely moved, I am not exaggerating in the slightest. I tried a couple of times with this dear, patient friend, and then suggested we stop and switch places. By the end of the exercise I was on the verge of crying, just out of raw, confusing emotion. I could not bring myself to do what Marc was asking, even though I knew my partner had the ability to keep me safe. So what was my damage?!
While thinking back about this part of class, I remembered suddenly that while Marc was demonstrating, I had my arms crossed with my hands clutching their opposite shoulders. Can you envision this? It took me only a second to register that I appeared to be physically shielding my heart. This realization led me to the decision to write about this experience, because it felt that significant. My fear of vulnerability had never been presented to me in such an obvious way.
It’s not easy to admit that I have been the reason for my lack of growth in this area, but it’s true. I have been hurt in the past, and recovering from emotional trauma is a long and painful process. I worked so hard in the beginning, but in the past year I lost focus and allowed my healing to take a backseat. I stopped confiding in my husband as much, I stopped journaling, and I had stopped seeing my therapist. Since that last training weekend I have forced myself to face some of the scary and uncomfortable thoughts that have been living rent-free in my mind for so long. Each piece of heartache that I released (by talking to my husband, returning to both individual and marriage counseling, meditating, and especially working through physically by doing more backbends in my yoga practice and giving myself Reiki at the heart chakra) I felt so much more free. So much lighter. Those painful thoughts were weighing me down and holding me back. The drop back exercise made me see how much I was holding in; how much that was within me, ready to break free one way or another.
I never cease to be fascinated by the influence yoga has on my life in so many unexpected ways. The more heart openers I practice, the more comfortable with them I become. I am so grateful for the lesson I learned that day, and I have entered 2018 with new intentions and a new understanding of the ways that yoga will continue to change my life and the way I live it. I’m curious to see what new insights I will gain next.
Namaste, and Happy New Year!