Friday, 2 April 2010

Newsflash...’s not about the asana.
Don’t get me wrong, I did know this already, but I think it just keeps hitting home a little more and more at the moment. Thanks to the Easter holiday and an almost civilised 7.30 start time, I made it to led class today, the first one I’ve been to outside of retreats and workshops (so I’ve never been to one with my regular teacher). I’m always nervous about led classes partly because I don’t do full primary so I don’t even know what comes next and I can’t do all of the poses, but also because it can feel relentless and like it’s never going to end. Noah helped me to understand the function of a led class is to learn the vinyasa count, and I have been feeling lately like I needed a refresher, particularly with my normal teacher, and from that point of view it was great – especially as I discovered that Cary’s instruction agrees with Noah’s at points where other teachers (or definitely lots of practitioners) differ. And weirdly it felt easier than my new normal practice, despite being longer, as my most challenging poses at the end were each performed once and without adjustment.
Because I took this whole week off practice, before the class started I thought I’d better mention to Cary about the pain in my collar-bone and having been to the osteopath this week. She said that I should just see how I got on and if it was hurting that I should take my mat and go and finish in the back room. Although I was definitely aware of a twinge in that area during the practice (especially in Marichyasana A and C and on the occasions where we held chaturanga for everybody to catch up) I was pretty much OK until it came to supta kurmasana. Of course without the adjustment I’m not going very deeply into the pose - I can cross my feet but I can’t get my arms around to take the bind, but it was here that I really felt more than just a twinge so I stayed where I was and didn’t push it. So as I was leaving, I spoke to Cary about it, hoping to get some ideas of stretches I could do to help and also hoping that she wasn’t going to say that I should back off and not practice supta kurmasana – not after it took me a year to get there!! But the conversation we had made me realise that while I was trying to treat my “Injury” on a physical level there is a lot more I should be thinking about. Such as...
...I seem to have a lot of “stuff” at the moment. I have doubt, and fear, and uncertainty surrounding almost every aspect in my life. A couple if incidents in the past month have made me doubt a lot of what I have believed in for the past year (namely, that all yoga people are lovely) and made me start to think that I don’t want yoga to be the sole definition of my life – I want to practice it quietly and then get on with the rest of my day, and my life. But I am a person of extremes, and I can’t seem to do anything quietly without wanting to talk about it, so this is where the difficulty comes in.
I also feel like I am doing a lot of things not very well in my life at the moment. I spend way too much time sitting at a computer. I am hiding away from a lot of big family stuff in the hope that it will go away if I don’t acknowledge it. I am feeling like I should be dating but then backing away every time I dip a toe in the water, but I don’t want to be on my own forever. I’m doing a job I don’t love where my sole aim seems to be to get through the day without anyone noticing that I’m hardly achieving anything. I’m spending time socially with people who make me feel bad about myself one way or another, but avoiding replying to emails or making plans with the people I really love and I don’t know why. None of this stuff makes me feel good about me.
Meanwhile, back on my mat, at least one pose has me shuddering on the verge of tears every single time I practice. Triang mukhaikapada paschimottanasana: seemingly quite an innocuous pose, but one which for my first year made me angry, and now has descended into tears. I haven’t actually cried yet, but I can just feel it there, so now of course I have introduced fear of what would happen if I stay there too long or if I get an adjustment in the pose. My feeling is that all of the “stuff” I’ve got locked deep down might be just waiting to pounce right there, and I don’t mean the “I don’t like my job” stuff, or the relationship stuff, I mean the really really big stuff where if you pull that little thread my whole of my sanity might just come unravelled. Coming from a family where the accepted way to deal with a difficult event like a funeral is to pretend it’s not really happening (actual advice given to me not too long ago) I am busily burying my head in the sand and happy to stay that way.
But speaking to Cary this morning, when I asked what I could do to help alleviate the pain in supta kurmasana, she brought it all home that this ostrich approach of mine can’t go on forever. She said that a lot of the times when there is pain there, it means you are tight here as she pointed to the breastbone – or more accurately, the heart. I was ready to be told some shoulder-opening exercises to try but as she spoke about lying back over a bolster with a pillow under your head and lying there for 20 minutes to really open up I realised what this meant before she even said “and let out whatever tears that need to come”. While the osteopath thinks my pain was due to a slight misalignment in my hips, my teacher seems to know better, and I am inclined to believe her version, even though it will be much harder to treat. The reality now is that I think I am going to have to face up to what I fear the most, and it’s harder than any asana could ever be.


  1. I myself have never experienced any great emotional feelings doing asanas, only that it's a bummer trying to get into postures one finds hard to do. Having said that I am rather and shallow and empty - that's my excuse anyway!!

  2. Usually, Mel, it's not as hard as we fear, and not as hard as the pain we are carrying and trying to hide from. Take it from this much older yogini who has drenched her mat with tears countless times. Body and heart, best advice is: let go let go let go.

  3. Yoga does seem to bring stuff to the surface that we either consciously or subconsciously try to keep buried. Release is healthy I always think, even if that release comes in ways and at times when we least expect it. Controlling the release is something else, especially when its from beyond the physical level.

  4. This is a beautiful and very intimate post Mel. I think that you are lucky to have a teacher like Cary, even if she is not like Noah in every detail.
    I can relate in many ways, the extreme all or nothing approach brought me to the point where I am not doing any yoga at the moment.
    But crying is good, on and off the mat, to get it out, let go.
    Oh, and not all yoga people are lovely. I've met some yoga teachers, who made me wonder about the practice altogether, just because of their attitude/personality or whatever you may call that.

    Anyway, for what it's worth, you are not alone in this. Take care. And a big hug