Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes. – Carl Jung
Yoga is therapy. In this arena you learn to become practitioner and the patient. You are led to a door. You can choose to open it and dare to walk through.
When I first came to this practice I craved stability and security in my life. I was in my early twenties and did not have the coping skills I needed to deal with the demands of my world. I was a reactive, sharp little tac that pierced quickly at any sign of danger. I was fooling myself into this shallow belief that no one would notice how fragile I really was if I (literally) walked around puffing my chest out, but tucked my tail between my legs from behind (a condition in my body I’m still trying to unwind). How little I knew about how transparent we really are. My brash exterior was only a diversion from the wealth of fear I felt at the forefront of my being daily. I was dodging, (or perhaps attracting) the inevitable and thankfully it was about the same time I had enrolled to take my Yoga Teacher Training.
Up until this point I had been practicing yoga alone from books or what I had remembered my mother showing me. I didn’t really know anyone else who was into yoga. But I was drawn to this training because 1) It was the only form of physical movement I was motivated to do while experiencing mild depression and 2) I had shut down any interest in spirituality as a teenager and was feeling a disconnected like never before.
The first day I was overwhelmed. Sleepless from a red eye home that morning I had forgotten my mat and was contemplating not even walking through the front door. Projecting myself to feel alone in a room full of people who had more reason than me to be there, I reluctantly showed up late and hid in the corner and continued to do so until I had a small epiphany about a week later. This group was diverse. This was not a room full of these perfect, elite yogi’s and I did not have perfect larger than life teachers (although they were awesome!), there was a room full of people whose lives had insults down to the core of their being - just like me.
This was an environment where it was no one was trying to fix it or fight it. This was a place in time where I learned how to observe with compassion - the current state of my mind and body through a series of postures that were the exact same everyday. It began to give me a mirror to look into and see what I was really up against and the ability to build a relationship with it instead of denying it a seat at my table. Sure, there were days I did not want to see what was going on - where the streetcar stopped and I stayed glued to my seat. But there were also days where it was 6am, when my eyes were swollen from crying, I walked for a half hour to the studio shivering in the cold January morning to get on my mat and practice. Practice. Practice. Practice. This was therapeutic for me. Walking through darkness, (again, literally) for only the experience. To no longer shy away from the painful or difficult but to begin to accept and welcome it as part of the spectrum of who I was.
Fear comes up when we practice, or engage with anything that is unfamiliar. If I start to point to the external as the source of my discomfort, I know without a doubt, that I will find myself in the same scenario again. My teachers showed me how to give my ego a name and taught me how to separate it from my true self. I reflect on feelings in moments when I am faced with a person I do not admire and wonder what it is within myself that I judge. When I feel myself push through my day/practice (as if I’m trying to get away from something) with the finish line in sight, I ask where it is I’m going in such a hurry. It reminds me when I am not living from a place of love and allows me to reset without feeling shameful about my imperfections.
Through all my trainings, I have always found my way in and have been able to connect and apply this philosophy of yoga through my body. Similar to how I felt about reading Shakespeare in highschool, trying to decode or analyze the Sutra’s didn’t hook me. I preferred the Cole’s notes version and realized that just like there are many yoga postures trying to tell us one thing, there are many ways to communicate the same intention. We respond to the form - whether it be physical, intellectual, vocal or meditative that feels like a calling to come home and allow that to be the threshold we walk through to begin our healing.