Nov. 13, 2013

Finding the “Optimal” Place in the Pose (part 3)-Emotion

OK. You’ve come into the pose, are breathing smoothly and steadily; you have a strong, focused awareness, and things feel that they are shifting in what you perceive as a positive directions. You have some awareness to spare, and you begin to spread your awareness out to notice what else is happening. One powerful and potentially useful thing to notice is how you feel emotionally, or what emotions are present.

Emotions arise naturally in the practice of yoga since we all have experienced things in our life that we couldn’t emotionally be present with at the time, and the bodymind, in it’s Infinite Intelligence says, in effect, “No problem. I’ll file it away over here in the hamstrings (for instance), and we can deal with it later.” (kind of like my desk!) Then when we come to the mat and begin to explore our body and inner being, the hidden and “unprocessed” emotions will eventually and inevitably come to the light of awareness in order to be known, accepted, and healed and integrated or released. In the end, all of our unconscious and repressed memories, emotions, thoughts and experiences are like white noise, keeping us from getting underneath the surface and realizing the deeper parts of our Being that we subconsciously sense and crave.

For the most part, if emotions arise in the practice on the mat, we just observe and be present with them as we would with any other sensation.. However, two specific emotions indicate that something is wrong, and we need to change something in the pose and not just observe them. In classes when I asked what emotions people thought might indicate that something is off, always the first, and correct, answer is Fear. If we are experiencing fear in the pose, that is feedback from some part of our being that we need to change something. If we choose not to heed that guidance, we run the risk of injury, and part of our energy will be on staying where we are or trying to move deeper while part of our energy will be resisting or even fighting what is. We’ve created a war inside. The outer world will then form itself so as to mirror the inner condition that we have created.

The other emotion is anger. Anger generally goes hand in hand with fear. Some people, especially men but could be anyone, who were taught that fear is not an acceptable emotion may bypass fear and go directly to anger. Others who were taught that anger is not an acceptable emotion may bypass anger and go directly to fear. If anger arises in the pose, as with fear, we are creating a war inside with some part of ourself trying to go one way and some other part trying to keep that from happening. This battle is a huge waste of energy and is counter to the aims of Yoga.

To explore the poses in this way ultimately demands rigorous honesty, courage and deep sensitivity, but if we experience fear or anger, my suggestion is always to back up, slowly and sensitively, till just before the fear creeps in. If we practice in this way, daily or almost daily, for 5 or 10 years and have developed a healthy and respectful relationship with our body, then we can have a different conversation since yes, there are certainly times to explore the fear and anger in order to get to the source and uproot it completely.

Inversions are the notable exception to the “no-fear” “rule.” Everyone who gets upside-down will have to face fear and “just do it” anyway. And in life, too, sometimes that’s what we must do. However we must make sure that we keep our bodymind as safe as possible in the process.

If we consistently put ourself in fear and anger during our practice when we are in control and have total choice, we are simply practicing being angry and in fear, getting better and better at it. The Universe then sees that when given a choice and control, we want to experience fear and anger, and being the Loving Energy/Being that it is, it gives us more and more situations in which we can practice fear and anger. If however, we consciously take fear and anger as feedback and endeavor to learn and change from it, in the process we awaken compassion and loving care and kindness in the laboratory of our own bodymind. The Universe then sees that we are consciously choosing other possibilities than fear and anger and gives us fewer opportunities to experience those emotions while instead giving us more lessons in compassion and love and care. This is my definite experience. In the end, it’s all our choice.