I had never considered that my emotional baggage would show up as a visible manifestation of my physical body, or that releasing my physical body in yoga asana (poses) would generate a profound awareness into all the parts of my life, including the good, the bad, and the indifferent.
I now believe that our physical bodies absorb and reflect everything, everything we do or don’t do, see, say, think, consume, everything. If we think of how our face changes depending on our emotional state, it’s the same thing, only at a much deeper level.
It would be an understatement to say that I loved yoga from the first time I tried it.
The reality was that I had never felt so physically alive as I felt walking out of my first yoga class, and although most people, including myself who regularly engage in physical activity will describe a “high” they get from exercise, for me, nothing compared to this. It was ethereal and enough to send me on a path that would change me and my life, forever.
After that first class, I immediately started training as a yoga instructor, which was a sensible segue, as I was already a certified fitness instructor.
The first several yoga instructor courses were an excellent foundation for this journey, but with each completed yoga training on alignment and theory, my craving for authenticity and wisdom became a priority. The universe heard my call and the teacher appeared. I found an authentic yoga “guru” and signed up for his training.
The first day of my authentic yoga teacher training finally arrived. I was feeling like a kid on the first day of school, with more questions than answers. What will I learn? Who else will be in my class? Will the teacher like me? What should I wear? Blah, Blah, Blah.
These questions and answers were really of no value at all.
The most profound and scariest answer would come without my knowledge of the question: What of my personal history will my yoga teacher see when he looks at me?
I am not sure I had ever considered that someone could know my history without a conversation of such.
The first hour of the first class, we did spinal waves, often referred to as Cat/Cow. My teacher used me and another aspiring teacher as examples for the other students of how to read the body in asana. Our teacher could detect that both she and I had some sort of trauma that was showing up in Cat/Cow. With the other student, our teacher saw that her belly was not releasing and when he mentioned it, she broke down into tears, as she had recently suffered a miscarriage.
My cow appeared in a hyper-kyphosis or the inability to release my upper back into extension, which in turn also showed as collapse of my front body. In fact, my teacher tapped on my upper back and compared it to cement.
This type of physical manifestation is typical of someone who is protecting their heart. He used the analogy of my torso as a bird cage that needed opening to set the bird free.
At that moment and for the remainder of the training, I was terrified of what else my teacher could see about me.
Here I was in a room full of strangers, and someone could clearly see everything I had worked so hard at hiding. I was sure he knew that from an early age, and over my lifetime, I became an expert, or at least I thought I was an expert, at burying my feelings and emotions. I learned to stuff my disappointments, disregard mean-spirited comments, shut out terrifying rage and anger that I observed from others, ignore heartbreak (that if we live long enough, we will all experience in one form or another), and never cry or even talk about my inner turmoil.
I was frequently reminded that I was too sensitive and because I believed that being sensitive was a bad thing, I learned not to show my sensitivity.
As the 200 hours of training progressed, I watched in awe at the physical revelations that appeared in many of the other students, and although 200 hours was not enough time to release a lifetime of my drama, it was a good start. I had the tools to open the bird cage.
Looking back on the journey and remembering how amazing I felt after my first yoga class makes perfect sense.
I didn’t understand it at the time, but those Sun Salutations, with Down Dog, Up Dog, Warriors, Spinal Waves, and Savasana, allowed me for the first time to move my spine toward extension and potentially tap into physical and emotional healing that comes when we mindfully release our body through conscious movement and breath.
Now years and hundreds of yoga training hours later, my journey has come full circle. I am more aware of everything in my life and in my body. I am still learning to let that bird out of its cage, and my spine is no longer like cement. I have found myself weeping in Savasana, because it is not as difficult to cry when I am sad, and I know without a doubt that being a sensitive and empathic human is not a bad thing; it is my “superpower.”
As for my teacher, I still enjoy learning from him, especially the art of seeing and understanding. I know personally how the body manifests itself according to the life we live, and how freaking great it feels to be free. I owe my authentic teacher for helping me see how to be an authentic person, as well as an authentic yoga teacher, and I will forever be grateful of the awareness I developed to see into chronic physical manifestations of myself and sometimes others, and for the opportunity to share yoga and the healing power of physical release with each soul that I meet on the mat.
I’m not suggesting that yoga will cure everything or that the asanas and pranayama (breathwork) that I practiced for my own healing would be the best match for everyone. It doesn’t work that way, and I’m not suggesting that every physical ailment is a result of emotional trauma Yoga is not for everyone.
We all have our own body, history, and needs, and like any new physical activity, I always suggest a physician’s clearance to participate.