Much like any relationship, yoga has the capacity to disappoint.
Yoga and I had become best friends. Each day on my mat, with yoga’s help, I would explore my inner universe, feeling safe in the comfort of my own body, growing exponentially with each and every day.
Then, it happened. Out of the blue, like a rug being pulled out from under me, love, appreciation and gratitude for this all encompassing practice left my heart without letting me know where they went or leaving me a way to contact them. I was heart broken and found myself becoming frustrated, bored and confused.
I continued my daily practice, hoping that the next sun salutation or meditation session would bring it all back. They didn’t and I found myself growing more and more lost each time I rolled up my mat.
Through all of this, I ended up getting sick with a pretty intense head cold and thought to myself, “This will prove my devotion! I will do a gentle sequence and be kind to myself. Yoga is sure to make me feel better and bring me into healing and my love will come rushing back.”
So there I was, barely able to breathe through my nose, head pounding, lungs crackling, cheeks flushed. Regardless, something inside, be it desperation or inspiration, told me I was good to go and I proceeded to step to the top of my mat. On the inhale, I raised my arms to the sky and gazed at my fingertips. On the exhale, I swan dove down into a forward fold and almost blacked out and passed out from the sinus pressure in my head.
I blew my nose, flopped onto the couch and wrapped myself up in a blanket and cried. I cried because I hurt all over and I wanted my nose to disappear, but most of all, I cried because yoga wasn’t working for me and I was petrified as I had invested so much of my time to it.
“Yoga, you disappoint me!”
This was it. I had, seriously, had it. I needed a break from yoga to clear my head and that’s exactly what I did. The next day, I was filled with guilt but I was also angry as hell, so it wasn’t hard to look over at my unused rolled up mat in the corner. I was mad and spiteful, “How do you like that, yoga? I don’t need you!”
I had turned yoga into a breathing living being and was craving a full out fight with what was in actuality, a practice.
Had I gone mad?
The second day rolled around and it was easier to let go of the guilt and see things a little clearer. I was starting to recognize the web of expectation that I had woven for myself. I took a hike and did some much needed writing. I ate good food and hung out with friends and didn’t talk once about yoga.
A couple of days went by.
The fifth day also happened to be the first day of my last weekend of yoga teacher training. I was excited to go as it was a retreat and I hadn’t seen my fellow students and teacher, who had become my very good friends, in nearly a month. I wondered about asana practice and figured I would go with it and see what would happen.
That night, we met at a studio in a nearby town and did three hours of inversions before making our way to the rural community, where we would be staying. The inversions were taught workshop style, so it was more practical and in all honesty was what I wanted and could handle with ease at that point. I didn’t go deep; I didn’t flow. I just did the postures to the best of my physical ability.
My accommodation for this retreat was a quaint private cabin overlooking the beach. We arrived at our destination after dark so the scenery surrounding me was left to my imagination until morning. Inside the cabin, the smell of saltwater and hardwood combined to create a sensation of overall calm. I turned on a night light before I crawled into bed, which happened to be a little happy Buddha. Illuminated, he made me laugh and I shut my eyes and went to sleep feeling warmed by the glow of my new little friend.
The alarm went off at 5:30 a.m. I opened my eyes and brought my gaze into focus to look out the window. Calm ocean surrounded me as the sun made its ascent. I quickly got dressed, turned off my new little friend and made my way outside, where I was encapsulated by the scenery. Everything changed in an instant. I made my way to a platform that stood as a lookout to the ocean and breathed in the magic of the moment—my moment.
With my renewed sense of sight, I saw the greenest grass and the tallest trees; my ears heard birds chirping and wings rustling in the branches, I smelled flowers, herbs and the salty air and I could feel the heated wind brushing against my skin.
I felt as light as air as I walked myself up to the main house where we all met in the kitchen before asana practice. My heart was leaping out of my chest and I was full of energy for the first time in two weeks.
That morning, during practice, I felt centered and renewed. I could feel my heart pumping fresh blood into every inch of my body. We finished as the feelings of relief washed over me. The love,appreciation and gratitude had come back to my heart as quickly as they left. I welcomed them with open arms.
That night, I opened the door to my little cabin feeling blessed.
Silently, on the edge of my bed, I apologized to yoga. I apologized to myself. I had lost my way. I had disappointed myself and in the process forgot how important I am to my own well-being. I forgot that yoga can’t disappoint. I forgot that I am yoga, but I suppose, in the depths of my despair, “Steph, you disappoint me!” was too much to bear.
Taking the time off from yoga is exactly what I needed to realize, with clarity, that I simply needed a break. Instead of trusting myself and going with the flow and just taking a couple of much needed days off, I swam against the current—so hard that I made myself sick and reluctantly allowed myself to wash up on the shore, not knowing that this is just the thing I needed to heal and move forward.
Self love is so important. Being in the moment is essential to happiness. Putting pressure on yourself only weaves a web to get yourself stuck in. These have been my lessons.
I turned on my little Buddha night light and smiled gratefully.
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Ed: B. Bemel
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