I had one of those classes tonight. One of the ones you read about in those yoga books or hear about at a yoga conference. The ones where everything kind of becomes clear. Granted, I feel like it was more a culmination of the last few months of dedicating myself to being positive, and really deepening my practice, but tonight felt special.
I have been working hard at finally getting over my history of depression, anxiety, and health issues. Well, not getting over. In fact, that’s the mentality I am trying to get away from. I should say accepting and being okay with all of these issues. Finding a way to incorporate them into my life story without letting them define me or cause any negativity. I have been reading a lot of books by Thicht Naht Hahn and “The Wisdom of Yoga” by Stephen Cope…both have emphasized looking deep and accepting previously disowned parts of yourself, treating them like a child that needs someone to care for them and give them permission to express themselves and feel safe and loved. At first I thought that sounded crazy…if I let myself explore these old feelings of despair, anxiety, sadness, and craziness, wouldn’t I be giving them power or permission to come back? Would I let myself slip back into old patterns? Would I give my depression the strength the pull me back down to a place where just living and breathing seemed to hurt, where every day was a struggle to get out of bed, where my anxiety kept me from wanting to go to work or school, even leave my apartment? I was both skeptical and slightly terrified.
But, I tried it. I figured I would rather dive headfirst into exploring these issues, rather than living in fear of them rising up at random times and catching me off guard. Even though I’ve been ‘in recovery’, as I’d call it, for the last few years, I’ve still had days where the weather, hormones, or stress makes everything seem scary, sad, hopeless, or overwhelming. On those days, I’d either fall right back into old patterns (or as yoga would call them, samskaras) of depression and anxiety…crying uncontrollably, calling off work, wanthign to lie in bed all day, accidentally lashing out at my husband or friends and family, then feeling guilty the rest of the day, over-eating or starving myself, convinced that if I could control my body, I could control my emotions…old habits that I definitely did NOT want to come back, but that I seemed to slip back into , like ruts in an old road that your tires get stuck in every time it rains (an loosely borrowed analogy from Cope’s book).
So for the last few months, I’ve been making the efforts…first, focusing on positive thoughts…trying to banish negative thoughts and patterns of behaviors and emotions that lead to those thoughts. I’ve also deepened my yoga practice and dance practice. Yoga for the obvious reasons, but also because as much as I love teaching yoga and dance, my old anxieties would creep up before a class…I would get scared or sick to my stomach, wanting to just call out sick, questioning why I even teach at all, questioning if I ever would be able to hold a real job, or if I’d always feel the need to just call out. So I started new rituals before my classes…no more mindlessly waking up and turning on the TV before class…instead, a quiet morning out in the yard with the dogs and a cup of lemon tea, some relaxing music, and quiet time sitting and meditating. Focusing on feeling happy and blessed that I had the opportunity to teach, and anticipating how good it would feel once I was in my practice. And it worked, I’ve been looking forward to my classes more than ever, not feeling nearly as anxious, and getting to that good place before I even start teaching. I’ve also been spending more time in silence…again, no mindless TV at night (yes a reality show here and there is fine, but I don’t just sit down and automatically have my remote in hand anymore). I now prefer sitting with my dogs outside, sipping tea, listening to music, reading. It is amazing the calmness this creates. Small changes, but they are adding up.
Which brings me to tonight’s class. I love being able to take my friend’s yoga class… partly because she is a great teacher, and partly because teaching all the time I don’t often have a chance to work on my own practice, taking risks and experiments with different movements, getting lost in the poses and breath, feeling the bliss that comes with a personal practice. Tonight I felt like everything I’ve been working towards the last few months just all came together. During the poses, I found myself closing my eyes, surrending into the posture, feeling so happy and at peace with my body and my spirit…maybe not my most flexible or perfect pose…I even stumbled out of a few balances…but I was okay with it, everything felt light and peaceful. My intention at the beginning of class was what it has been the last few months…an intention for inner peace, for health, and also a metta meditation sending love and peace out to my husband offering him help on his deployment. I carried that with me through the practice. I focused on just being okay with who I am and where I am. I focused on letting go of worrying about the past or the future. I focused on loving who I am and appreciating the uniqueness that I posses. I focused on the fact that the very things that sometimes worry me, such as planning for the future and worrying that I may never be a career-ist or a traditional mother-type, were the very things that make me an interesting, dynamic, and compelling person. I came to the realization that I don’t have to worry about my relationship with my husband based on anything I may do right or wrong in the future, and that he obviously loves me for a reason or else he wouldn’t have married me; I realized that I love him enough to forgive his faults and that if I only gave myself half the unconditional acceptance I gave him, I would be in a much different mindstate. I realized that it is my differences that give me the space to do the amazing things I do…rescuing animals, wanting to adopt children someday, wanting to travel, touching others lives by teaching yoga and dance, counseling, and more.
And most life-changing, I lay there thinking about how amazing it felt just to BE there, just to be lying there, breathing, happy, at peace, feeling good. What a stark contrast to the painful existence of a few years ago, feeling the constant pain of depression, not wanting to live anymore. How amazing and blessed I am to have lived, to be here, in this moment, perfectly content, perfectly peaceful, happy, loved, and exuding love. Everything just clicked. I had one of “those moments”. The cliche “yoga changed my life” moments. Only I know it was really a culmination of the last few months, years, my whole life really, so I guess it isn’t all that cliche.
It wasn’t until the end of class, laying in svasana, enjoying and soaking in the clarity and wellbeing I was experiencing, that I remembered what our teacher had set as the theme for class tonight…clarity. How fitting.
I can’t say that I am profoundly different or changed, that I am walking around on a cloud, or that nothing will ever be the same. Yes, I will still sometimes feel anxious or sad, yes I will still struggle with certain things; but I know that I am on my way to this better place. I know that I have accepted all of these parts of myself, that I am becoming whole, and that I can bring peace and clarity to every part of my being, even those that at first seem scary or hidden. I feel love and acceptance for myself, for my flaws, for my fears, for my past, future, and most importantly, my present.
Peace, Love, and Namaste.