It is often after a long and challenging practice that I find myself lost in the post-yoga buzz. A combination of intense and still flowing energy, physical sensations, sweat, a wide range of thoughts, heat, sometimes tears, and all of the feelings that can be cultivated with practice completely take over. We come face to face with our truest self, stripped of ego, raw and deliberately exposed with nowhere to hide.
One day I found myself in this space, turned to my side, and through gentle tears I saw myself so clearly for the first time ever. I realized with perfect clarity that I didn’t like myself very much and when that thought came to consciousness the tears really began to flow.
When our yoga practice becomes a mirror for us to see more clearly the life that we’re living we have a number of responses at our disposal. For most of us, it will be whatever our general habits are off of the mat. When we experience frustration, anger, fear, sadness, shame, vulnerability, discomfort it is not uncommon for us to want to avoid, distract or numb ourselves, deny the experience, blame someone or something else, refocus our attention outward, or hide.
When these feelings show up on the mat, the responses will look very similar. Some will avoid the practice all together because of how vulnerable it makes them feel. Some will numb themselves to the feelings that come up or resist what their body, heart, and mind are telling them and continue to push until injury. And when those who tend to run away realize they can’t hide and still maintain this practice there is also the potential to experience a breakthrough.
When I decided to dive deeper into my realization I discovered that at its core were decades of shame. Layers and layers of the belief that I was not worthy of this practice or this life…that I was not good enough to have what I had…that I didn’t deserve the love of my husband, my family, or the friendships that I had managed to develop over the years.
The thing about peeling back these layers is that it takes time to work through. These deeper truths are usually clouded by bigger illusions, stories that we’ve created, to distract ourselves from what’s really going on underneath. So what do we do from here?
Truth is known as Satya in Yoga Philosophy. In The Four Agreements, it is the agreement to “be impeccable with your word.” In order for us to see our truths and the beliefs that we hold we have to first identify the words we use, the phrases we speak, and the thoughts that arise within us with complete honesty. We must first bring awareness to what we do, say, and think now in the present before we can call ourselves out for its insincerity.
Decades of therapy, both with professional help and general talk-therapy among trusted friends and loved ones, were a big part of my journey. Years of practicing and studying Yoga Asana and Yoga Philosophy were also integral for me. The most significant factor of all though is that I have surrounded myself with people who love and encourage me to seek out and live my truth objectively.
My husband is amazing at this. He is the first person who has ever really taught me to see through my own B.S. especially when witnessing me belittle and criticize myself. He does not concern himself with how things appear or what someone else might think. He has the courage to call things out exactly as he sees them with honesty and respect, without holding back and without outside influence. I used to call him my “caller-outer.” He does not let me or anyone else get away with saying things that aren’t true especially when used to manipulate people (including myself) to think or feel one way or another. I am blessed to have him by my side. I am forever grateful for him, his integrity, and his love.
And then I needed my teachers. Taylor Hunt was the first who saw through my attempt to hide, resist, avoid, and stay numb on my mat. He heard me “joke” about how my body had too much “stuff” to twist and bind and he very publicly called me out. I needed this. He saw through the game I played to keep hidden. He saw that I practiced without being emotionally and mentally present, just scratching the surface and going through the physical motions that I knew so well after years of practicing this set sequence. He saw my resistance to going deeper, to trying harder, and to seeing what was really underneath it all. He helped me see the illusions I created and encouraged me to finally face them.
The rest of it is all me. I am reminded over and over again through continuous study, through mentors and through friends that I have power I can choose to own whenever I want. I do not have to continue looking outside of myself in other people’s validation or by achieving a posture to be or feel worthy of my practice or the life I am living. Unlimited potential is mine only when I am ready and willing to stand in that power and finally be seen.
As I continue this journey, I must stay diligent for myself and I must be willing to be that voice for others, lest I fall back into old patterns. Reminding those around me also helps me to remember: Pay attention to the stories you have created to convince yourself and others to look the other way. Recognize the words you use to describe others and yourself, your body, your actions, and your behaviors. Notice when you say something unkind and make yourself see the truth that lies beneath those thoughts or feelings.
It is not true that other people can “make you” feel anything. There is something deeper within you that causes a reaction to the words and actions of others. It is not true that you can make others think or feel or do anything. What someone does is their choice, their story, and has nothing to do with you. It is not coincidence that both of these reminders are also two more of The Four Agreements.
It is not true that you need to have a different body size or shape or structure to be your BEST self. It is not true that you “can’t” and that you need longer or shorter/bigger or smaller of anything to practice where you are. It is not true that you aren’t good enough/strong enough/flexible enough to try anything. It is not true that you don’t have enough time for something you truly want to do. It is not true that you have “no choice.”
When we become aware of our own illusions and can identify the truth that lies beneath, that is where the work begins. We can then call ourselves out when we hear the B.S. We can then take that time to explore where those thoughts or feelings are really coming from and sit with it…feel all of the feelings no matter how uncomfortable it is to speak it and bring it to light.
And as resilience and ease grows with that practice, we can begin to shift our perspective and recreate our habits. We can replace the thought patterns with ones that are rooted in our truth. We can identify the actions that perpetuate those beliefs and begin to make a different choice in how we live. And ultimately, we can choose to own our strength, live in our light, and stand in our power and know that we are all valid and worthy just as we are.