When I first heard the adage, "How you do one thing is how you do everything," I was somewhat appalled. I wasn't buying it. But it stuck in my head, rattled around and I realized that it's true. I saw it from a yoga perspective -- how I was on the mat was a direct reflection of how I was in the world. This is still true for me.
My yoga practice has changed quite a bit over the past 15 years, but the change has been more drastic these past few years. I've sloooooowed things down a lot. When I started practicing yoga, I was all about flow -- fast, non-stop movement. It was like I didn't want to feel anything -- I just wanted to distract myself and keep moving (interestingly enough, I injured myself quite a bit during my fast flow days). No surprise that at the time, I was living my life in the same fashion. I bustled from one thing to another, so that I wouldn't have to feel that I was unhappy, unsatisfied, frustrated, and confused. Distraction was the name of the game. I put the pretty label of flow on it, but what I was really doing was hiding (both on the mat and off).
My ego liked the protection that hiding provided. Heck, I got through an entire relationship on hiding. The thing is, you can't hide 24/7. It always comes back to bite you in your tight yoga buns whether the it is the relationship that's depleting you or the job that's sucking your soul or the habit/pattern that's running your life into the ground, or the belief that's holding you back, or the fear that's dictating your life's choices. Those things are right there, underneath the surface and no amount of hiding can cover them up. That quiet moment in the morning while you're sipping your tea, you feel it. When you wake up for no good reason at 3AM, you feel it. Waiting on line in the grocery store, you feel it.
It's amazing to the lengths we'll go to not feel it: the rushing around, the denial (I was the queen of denial for over a decade and looking back on it, I laugh at how good I was at it. Yep, I was a gold medalist in denial.), the excuses, the blaming of others, the dropping of good for us habits with the excuse of "I just don't have time." I did it all. And my yoga practice reflected that as clearly as a mirror.
It wasn't until I slowed my yoga practice down that I started to gain some awareness around this (and around what I was hiding from and how I was hiding from it). My ego cried out that I wasn't challenging myself enough, that I wasn't truly practicing yoga, that I was lazy and being soft, that I wasn't living up to my yoga potential (How's that for crazy? Yep, my ego is one crafty bitch.). Luckily, my heart knew better.
Years ago, I had an advanced yoga practitioner come in for a yoga therapy session. She'd been practicing yoga for years and was extremely flexible. I had her come into Pigeon Pose slowly and hang out in it for a while. WHOA -- she got mighty uncomfortable. She started talking about how she wasn't feeling anything and that it felt weird to be in the pose when it wasn't doing anything for her. She kept up a stream of dialogue for a few minutes emphasizing that she wasn't feeling anything and wanted to come out of the pose. I could feel how uncomfortable she was getting. Interesting considering she kept saying that she wasn't feeling anything. Not feeling anything or feeling too much?
Pigeon Pose is actually one of my favorites. When I've got a lot going on in my life, I go to Pigeon like it's my best friend. I even do something that I never really do in my yoga practice -- I set a timer so that I can't flake out of the pose when it starts getting intense. The last few weeks I've been overwhelmed -- in the good way. I've been floored by all of the good that's been happening for me (what a "problem" to have, eh?). People and things have been showing up left and right. I've been given a lot of gifts in many forms. I've been loved in a deeper way than I have before. Even though it's all wonderful, it's all feeling so intense. Funny how such good things can feel like something that we want to shy away from.
It's like Pigeon Pose for me -- I get in it and feel the intensity ramp up. I hit a point when I want to come out, using the excuse that my body has had enough. Yet I know that's not the case and that if I give it some time, the feelings will change into something entirely different. To assuage myself, I'll come up onto my elbows to take some of the potential physical harm out of it (I just do this to calm my brain which is screaming that my body is going to hurt itself). But I stay. I stay and I feel. I choose to not hide. And the more I do this on the mat, the more I do it in life. I stop checking out and making excuses and hiding behind others and hiding from myself and my feelings.
When I find myself wanting to speed my yoga practice up, it's a sure sign that I'm heading for cover. That's when I slow things down even more. I sink in and I let myself feel what's going on -- in all of its uncomfortable glory. I don't want to my yoga buns to be bitten in quiet early morning hours or in the middle of the night or in the check out line at the grocery store or any other time. I want to uncover it and feel it voluntarily as opposed to it bubbling up because it can only be forced down for so long.
So, my fellow yoga practitioners, I ask you -- are you hiding? How are you doing it? Look at your yoga practice and consider the possibility that you might be practicing in a specific way so that you can avoid feeling something that you just don't want to feel. And know that you can choose to not hide anymore.
Well...I'm off to set that timer and hang out in Pigeon for a few minutes.