If you'd rather right away like to skip to one of my old-time favourite songs, scroll down below.
In my my earlier days of practices (may be more like: In my earlier years of practice) I could easily get carried away with strong feelings arising in practice and very much entangle my mind with the stories I held about myself or a given situation, not just in practice, but also off the mat. Often I even blamed practice for bringing 'stories' up – always good to look at someone / something else for confronting personal 'misery'. Back then I still had a mindset to 'get something' out of practice, may be a bit more consuming mindset.
Over the years the consistent practice has become a great teacher, mostly that I am responsible for all that presents in me and how I react to that which arises in the moment, which again will give a response down the road, in practice as in life. Whatever I don’t deal with and try to tug away / ride over (inside as outside) will echo back at some point. I still have much to learn, I am no believer rigid perfection and sometimes things take their own beautiful time before they maneuver from logically understood concept of cause and effect to somatic and visceral knowing, from which change can then happen.
Yet, practice has become a space of acceptance and being more with what is rather than what should be. It’s a daily ritual that keeps me connected inside and out, especially when the days are more rough.
There are days when before stepping on my mat I already have a sense of something simmering inside me, something uneasy that will show itself during practice, something that I’d rather keep hidden away and unseen. I am sure you can relate.
My first reaction to this anticipation of ‘something’ is to run away from it, to not face it. So I ask myself for a brief moment: why on earth do I do this, practice, that gets me to these edges, feelings that would commonly be labelled as negative (and I do this voluntarily!!)? Revolt, resist!! Luckily, only a brief revolt now as these thoughts only present for a flash of a moment now – which hasn’t always been like this, I used to get carried away with anticipation and even get angry at it.
Through practice over time I have learned not to buy into anticipation of what may or may not show up in my practice (and life, woaaa!). This counts especially for the times when I already feel bruised (it’s easy to step onto your mat when days are happy…), I learned, despite the revolting chatter in my mind, it’s best to do the check and research myself, to show up and run the data in realtime - thus I get on my mat.
I understand in my body, thus on a somatic level, by experience (= practice, regularly), that by moving my body with my breath I not only physically move but also move energy and emotions – hereby I acquire a sort of different sense of myself, I allow myself more to observe than to react, I find a steady rhythm of carrying on with my practice despite thoughts and feelings, I see in real-time how things play out without believing my pre-emptive judgement, in fact I often learn that they are wrong and sabotaging (I often 'run' the song "sabotage' of the Beasty Boys in my head, it's an old time favourite...) ). I also learned, that there is nothing wrong with feeling anger, frustration, sadness and shedding tears in practice (or in life ;) and that all is part of being alive.
Practice helps me staying grounded and connected when times are a little less stellar. Having the set series (and the count, although I don’t use it every day) to rely on and literally just practicing really helps to go inside without getting lost there.
The precise rhythm of how to get in and out of a pose minimizes the entertainment my mind lashed onto my mood (and me reacting to it) while teaching me that all is interconnected, yet everything changes constantly.
The space of gaze, breath, bandha during the state of the asana gives me a chance to be still in whatever form I’m in and be there.
And yes, I do feel.
In fact, the last weeks, I feel a lot, ‘things are up in the air’, it’s clear nothing is clear, good that that is clear.
There sadness, worry and anger. Practice helps me through this, to find acknowledgment for what is and giving it the space it demands.
When life is more unsteady, I don’t give myself options to skip transitions, they keep me away from going in the directions of my mind and I don’t give myself options to skip a pose (unless there is an obvious reason because of injury) – yet if it happens and I do skip transitions or a pose, it’s also ok.
In times I feel fragile there are obvious poses I’d like to skip before I step on the mat, e.g. some of the deep back bends of the second series (I do them, eventhough at the start of my practice I sometimes catch myself thinking ‘Why on earth do I stretch the front my chest deeply and go into this heart and feeling space, when I already feel vulnerable??!’) or leg behind the head (a source of old tears for me, sort of). There is great value of doing them anyways, there is a sense of inner strength presenting as I breathe through what comes up – and this is really something, something very special, it gives me a sense of ease a sense that all is ok despite all else in all this, and besides I tried – gave it a chance without throwing down the towel before the first step – altogether it teaches me a lot for off the mat.
These days I am confronted (again) with my mom’s sickness, calling out the fragility of life, pointing out how we show up for our life and dreams (or not), bringing out sadness that a loved one has to suffer and bringing out much anger why it is like this, and all (old or new) stories that may come with it. Hello!
Practice helps me accept and be more gentle with – the situation. Accepting more that suffering, sickness and death are part of life. Accepting that I feel sadness and anger, instead of tugging it away and lashing out at myself (or others) in some way or another. The very regular practice is teaching me very gracefully and on a non-analytical level, through the very build up of the practice that all is changing, always, and that reacting / clinging to my feelings is not helping anyone, especially not myself. (Yet letting out a good scream outside is doings wonders.)
I’m grateful for this practice (and all my teachers); it provides me with inner grace and strength, not just in happy moments but especially in moments when life is challenging. The biggest lesson practice continuously teaches me is that I am responsible for my very own creations and the echo they make – with that how I walk in and communicate in this world inside and out. So when times are fragile and I rather just want to put a blanket over my head and give in to feelings of shittiness, it’s a big support, it allows me to observe all this shittiness and sit with it, while I move ‘things around’ in my physical, mental and emotional body allowing me to feel life tingles that wake me up to what it important for me and what I want to show up for.
We all experience fragile times.
May we all find a tool to tap into, to source from.
Come practice regularly.
You may be surprised by what unfolds when you give it a chance to show up regularly and consistently.