Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Heart Opening Postures (??)

My dirty dark secret of the past few months is that I've rarely practiced yoga. Yoga has been an important part of my life for years and I just...let it go, somehow.

Well, the "somehow" isn't a big mystery, actually. There are several pieces to it. As we all know, I was miserable in Swarthmore, but didn't know why. I would practice yoga daily in a vain effort to bring some equanimity to my life. My life changed in the blink of an eye, one day in October (and yes, I know the date). I practiced yoga one evening -a backbending, heart-opening practice- popped up from savasana, went over to the computer, and discovered my husband's infidelity.

As it happens, only little bits of his betrayal got through to my brain, which is probably a good thing. But plenty enough got through to shatter my world -or what I thought of as my world at the time.

The weird thing is that somehow in my murky psyche, I must have linked yoga to distress and pain. Every time I practiced since then, I would have a completely non-fun PTSD kind of response. Who needs that, particularly when there are entirely enough struggles in my attempts to reclaim a life? And besides, how annoying would it be if the person on the mat next to you in class started to shake and cry and gasp for air? I totally didn't want to be that annoying girl. So, yoga drifted off into the fringes of my life.

Another piece of this is that for weeks and probably months after returning to Illinois, getting on with the business of life meant fortifying myself. Pretend you're not in pain...put on your clothes....go to work... help other LET NO ONE IN. LET NO REAL EMOTION OUT. My heart was oh-so-very-not open. I dared not engage in a heart-opening practice. Maybe a spine-strengthening practice would have worked. Or a fear banishing practice. But yoga teachers frequently want to do more ethereal "open people up" practices, and I was very busy closing down.

And finally, right as I drove into town in October I realized that the temptation would be to re-create my old life. Somehow I knew, though, that was a bad idea. I did little things like join a different gym, find new things to do with old friends, change patterns of socializing... whatever I could think of that was different. The old familiar yoga practices with their (probably nonsensical) talk of releasing toxins and opening chakras seemed trite and pointless. Yoga seemed like part of the old life, and it had to go.

But here's the thing. My body started to hurt. My heart has hurt non-stop since the fall, but it started to hurt physically. My back got creaky. My always-annoying knees got downright obnoxious. I'm too old not to do yoga.

So tonight I went to yoga class. And wouldn't you know it, it was a heart-opening class. I'm still very cautious about opening my heart. Why would a sane person DO that??? But I gave it a shot. I'm tight everywhere -and flexibility has always been my "thing". I can bend every which way, or so I think in my little mind. Not so much with that, tonight. But I did the practice. I modified everywhere. I cried, but quietly and only during savasana. No gasping for air. No shaking.

We'll see how I feel tomorrow. But part of me suspects that reclaiming old familiar things can be as important as letting other old things go. The connection between yoga and pain is false -made up by my fragile psyche. If I let the important parts of yoga fall away from my life, it's a completely unnecessary loss. Surely I can find the fortitude to stand up for the healing that yoga offers.

I started tonight. One class done!!


Lisa :-] said...

You've got to believe there were some practices in your "old" life that were healthy and worthwhile. This sounds like one of them, and I'm glad your sidling up to it.

Renee said...

Yay! I'm so glad you went back!

I'm surprised you didn't have PTSD triggered by the computer. Or did you and you just didn't let on?

jill said...

Bravo, Andrea - it sounds like you're letting your healing happen, rather than forcing it, and I believe that's the best way to go.

Sharon said...

I'm betting you're feeling some post yoga glow this morning. Progress indeed.

Jane said...

Yoga is a gentle and healing art, and there is room for all aspects of a shattered psyche within it, I've found, thank goodness. We can give and take as much or as little as we like, but the important thing to do is to continue to show up on the mat, even if we spend the whole hour in child's pose. A good teacher gets that and a good class supports it. And something in our body says, welcome home.