November 23, 2016

How Yoga Helps with Uncertainty & Disappointment.

yoga pose head hand stand

It was hard to step onto my mat the day after Election Day and stay focused on yoga.

Like many of my friends, I struggled with conflicting emotions.

Part of me hoped to find a path that would lead to peace while at the same time another part of me tried, without success, to let go of feelings of anger and outrage.

So, my practice became a battleground of sorts, something that never happened before.

Ever since I started practicing yoga more than a decade ago, my mat has been a place where I can leave behind my worries and concerns, a place where I can feel safe to explore the unknown.

It’s a place where I have always been able to hear my own breath, my heartbeat, my voice.

But the day after Election Day was different.

On my mat I didn’t find a clear path but an obstacle course. My fears were like roadblocks, detours that took me out of the poses. My thoughts swirled like an unexpected tropical storm, sweeping my wishes for peace and reconciliation into fear for our country and our planet.

Again and again, in each pose, I tried to find some way to control my fears, but they insisted on running away, to dance just out of reach.

However, I stayed on my mat. I continued with my Sun Salutations. I raised and lowered my arms. I bowed forward in Uttanasana. I stepped back into lunge, then went to plank, first one leg, then the other, and then to Downward Dog and back to Mountain Pose.

In each pose I tried to listen to my breath, but my thoughts kept intruding, stealing away the calmness that usually accompanies my practice.

I thought about peace and anger, and I realized that they were opposing values, each one, in some way, linked to the other.

If I could let go of anger, I thought, I might find peace. If I could find a clear path to peace, I might be able to let anger melt away.

But how? What was keeping me from letting go, from finding peace?

As I bent forward again, I realized that I hadn’t fully understood the degree of my distraction.

Instead of appreciating where I was in the moment, I was casting my gaze elsewhere—looking to the past in anger because I couldn’t control the outcome of the election, looking to the future in fear that the country would become a land that I wouldn’t recognize.

And I realized something else. I was trying to use yoga to remove this fear and anger from my life instead of letting yoga simply be yoga—to let my muscles stretch and twist, to give myself space to breathe into the unknown, to listen to my breath.

In the uncertainty and disappointment of the election, I’d forgotten to appreciate the moment, to inhale and let the air fill my chest with hope…if not for the future, then for the present, for this moment.

So I continued doing the poses. I focused on the sound of my breath. And little by little I felt that sense of comfort and calm return that I usually feel when I step onto my mat.

By the time I had finished my practice session, I was reluctant to leave the mat.

I wanted that sense of calm to last just a little longer.

Here’s what I wrote in my journal after finishing my practice: “Peace doesn’t come easily, but it comes if you’re patient and allow it to arrive.”



Author: Bruce Black

Image: Aral Tasher/Unsplash 

Editor: Travis May

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Bruce Black