Years ago, when I first stepped onto a yoga mat, I was emotionally closed off. I’d perfected the art of acting the way I was “supposed” to act, keeping up the appearance that I had all my ducks in a row. To be honest, “vulnerability” wasn’t even in my vocabulary. Letting people in, truly in, opened too many doors for heartache, betrayal, and rejection.
While I started the asana practice of yoga for the workout (who DOESNT want a yoga butt??), it took my amazing teacher, Domenic, to really teach me yoga. Nobody warned me that a simple mantra, a single stretch, or a specific tension release had the ability to break through my barriers.
Over time I began noticing the emotional and spiritual effects of my practice. I couldn’t understand why I got so emotional in backbends (heart opening) or why I often teared up in pigeon pose (hip opening), but I knew I always felt simultaneously drained and refreshed when I left Domenic’s class.
Recognizing that my time on the mat had become an amazing form of therapy, I piggybacked my actual therapist with Dom’s Tuesday night class, effectively making “Therapy Tuesday.” Working through my shit with a professional, then coming to the mat and allowing my brain to fully process the work I was doing revolutionized my life.
Eventually, I realized I wanted to share this experience, this “alternative therapy” I’d found. I became a yoga teacher to pay it forward.
As a yoga teacher, my classes always have a dharma talk. An intention, or focus, that I give my students to meditate on. This is a practice I’ve carried into my other class formats, bringing an element of “therapy” to all forms of sweat. As I always say, cycling is cheaper than therapy!Let’s be clear, I’m not a certified therapist and I always recommend people try therapy at least once in their lives. But, especially after years of my own therapeutic exploration, I bring my own personal struggles and life lessons into my teachings, sharing what I’ve learned and encouraging my students to dig deeper.
In one of my classes last week, I used the Maya Angelou quote: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” and encouraged my students to dedicate their practice to letting their light shine for someone who needed it today…and one of my students lost it. Later she apologized, shocking since I found myself envious of her cathartic release…
Watching her throughout the class was such a beautiful reminder of the power of yoga. The power of releasing our grip and letting the universe take over. Life is always on time, but we’ll never see that if we’re unable to relinquish control of the current moment and just feel…aaaaaall the damn feelings 😉
As someone that spent most of her life with a limited range of “acceptable” emotions, I write this because releasing my restrictions and allowing myself to let go of the expectations that had ruled my mind and my life for as long as I can remember brought my entire existence to a new level.
Sometimes I’m dying for an emotional release. Sometimes I have no clue why I’m sobbing. But, unlike baseball, there is always crying in yoga. But the really good kind.
Let it out. We’ve all been there.