The world seems flat out crazy right now—like people have literally gone mad.
The president of the United States is unhinged.
North Korea is launching missiles.
ISIS terrorist attacks are becoming bolder and more frequent.
South Asia is flooding.
Pipelines are winning out over clean water.
We are lost.
The headlines make my eyes squint. Sometimes they give me the feeling that I have been sucker punched. I don’t know what to think. It’s so overwhelming, and my heart aches with deep sadness, shame, and anger. It’s hard knowing that we could be doing things so much better.
Today there are epidemic rates of mental illness, depression, and anxiety. I get it. My yoga teacher used to say that when a society has time to dress its dogs while people are starving, we are in trouble.
I wish I had the power to change things—it’s hard to find relief in a world where everything seems backward and upside down. There is one thing, however, that offers some comfort in sorting through the chaos: coming back to my yoga mat.
Yoga is like a warm quilt. It’s the place I return to when I feel the burden of the present moment. My practice allows a sense of ease and is a place of sweet surrender. I find empowerment there. When it comes to fixing the world, it feels like there is not a lot I can do—but I can fix me.
Moving outward from this place, I ask myself: What do I need to heal in my own psyche in relation to sadness, shame, and anger?
Sadness is a part of being human. We would never know the full spectrum of happiness if we had never felt the pain of grief and loss. Through sadness, there is cleansing of the soul.
I’m partial to my sadness. I love a good movie that leaves me bawling like a baby. There’s something powerful in releasing those tears. I think I’m drawn to it because inside of me there is a deep well of hurt, particularly in relation to men. So yes, sadness lives in my heart, but I am aware to not let it harden me.
Poses like Sphinx, Camel, and Fish focus on opening the chest while aligning any stagnant energy there. Heart-opening poses allow us to immerse and engage with what we are emotionally disconnected from. With what we need to be honest with ourselves and others about in terms of how we are truly feeling.
Shame thrives in highly critical environments. I have spent a lifetime of playing tag with it. I didn’t even understand how shame was affecting me until I was 40 years old. That’s a long time to be saying, “You’re it.”
Most people suffer from shame of some kind; body shame and emotional shame rank high. Males are rarely permitted to cry for the shame of perceived weakness. Females learn early on that our natural bodily functions, like bowel movements and passing gas, are unbecoming and should be hidden and not discussed.
Shame lives in our bodies where we’ve maimed it. In my case, the healing work is in building strength in my pelvic floor muscles through Mountain Pose, Warrior I, and Bridge Pose. These are supportive postures that help to bring awareness and, ultimately forgiveness to this area. When we focus our energy on strengthening what is weak, we are given a chance to balance and heal the old wounds.
Anger is a vestibule that can eat us up if it is repressed. It has often been referred to as “a cancer” and mimics just that. Anger expands and interferes with our capacity to focus on the things we care about. It is not an enemy, but an alarm bell. Sometimes it is as simple as having our boundaries crossed or being deceived, and sometimes it brings up something far deeper like an unresolved issue with a parent.
I have been scared of my own anger at times. I don’t like who I am when I feel its prowess vibrating in my veins. I’d never want to meet angry Kristen in a dark alley. Nonetheless I own her.
One of my biggest secrets is that control owns my rage. Control has jurisdiction over a lot of us. From the moment we are born, we are subject to it. What to eat, what to wear, how to behave, who to be when we grow up. We are governed by teachers, bosses, and spouses. Control is a soft spot for almost everyone.
Yoga has done a great deal to harness my anger about control. By using the Ujjayi breath to breathe into the parts of me that become inflamed, my central nervous system calms down, and things are less intense. The ultimate awareness is that through controlling our breath, we control our response to what life sends our way, and that equals immense power.
There is reassurance in coming back to the sticky rubber surface of my mat. By returning to it, I have an opportunity to heave up old pain and witness how it breaks me. By spending time releasing what is stored in our bodies and dealing with our own uncomfortable feelings, we can grow. What once hindered us, then becomes a tool that makes us sturdy and durable.
We are a tiny cellular example of the whole. What poisons our minds and bodies poisons our streams and biosphere. When we labour to clean up our individual lives, we contribute to cleaning up the dirty and dark of this planet.
The world gets well when we work on ourselves.
Author: Kristen Dobson
Image: Ben Blennerhasset/Unsplash
Editor: Danielle Beutell
Copy editor: Yoli Ramazzina
Social Editor: Callie Rushton