July 14, 2010

Yoga Pain Playground: On Reckoning Unexpected Emotions.

Situations in and around yoga can provide helpful learning points. It’s not always just the practice, but also in the teaching and learning about yoga there can be opportunities for self-acceptance and emotional growth.

I was assisting in a therapeutic yoga class when the quick hand movement of a teacher caused a dense wooden brick to fall on my right big toe. When it happened I said, “Ouch!” The student and teacher both paused to consider me. I quickly covered up with: “I’m okay.” I wanted to free up the moment so that we could get on with the session, but I was hurting! And I was distracted by the emotional sense that I was hiding my hurt. I silently told myself that it really wasn’t such a big deal. The yoga teacher continued the instruction, fulfilling expectations.

My toe was fine, but my emotions were out of kilter! I wondered how I could balance myself without crying all over the student. I didn’t consciously understand why I was so upset, but I knew I needed to do something about it. So before the teacher left I looked into his eyes and said, “That hurt my toe.”

And he said, “I could see that: I’m sorry.”

Somehow this admission that I had been hurt, and that I had seen that I had been heard and acknowledged by the one whom accidently caused my pain, helped me to go forward with clarity. This seemingly small interchange had an enormous effect on my psyche and sense of wellbeing.

When I was looking at the bottled up feelings, and feeling overwhelmed by them, it reminded me of feelings I had had as a kid—and totally out of proportion with what had happened in yoga on that day. This event seemed to bring up a time in my childhood when there was someone in my life who had administered sudden painful punishments in an effort to control my behavior. Of course, as a child I did not wish to be controlled in this crude and brutal way and I often didn’t understand, and couldn’t predict when these strikes were coming. So as a kid I learned to deny pain in an effort to keep my sanity.

That block fell on me as an adult, and at the same time I felt the glaring, raging and confused eyeball of my youth looking for a target, but there I was at yoga, in the house of love. It made me suspicious enough to pause. I was able to consider my seemingly irrational emotional spike from a compassionate viewpoint that enabled me to consider how I might treat myself with kindness, so I could do what I came there to do: assist and help out in a therapeutic yoga class.

So when that inner pain came up in the yoga scenario described above, I was able to clear it by being truthful. And everything got lighter after that. Small interactions can have big healing effects if we can have the clarity to see what might be contributing to any given moment.

* This article, somewhat improved from its original publication, is offered with gratitude from the archives of Yogic Muse *

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