1. Completely relax into the ground. It can take all of your weight. When my yoga teacher said this, I reacted pretty much like this “A-doyyyyyyy!! Everyone knows the ground can take our weight!” Then I started to realize that I rarely, if ever, let go completely and sink into the ground. I feel like there are so many moments when I feel as thought I need to hold my world from crashing down around me that I don’t trust that if I let go, it will be OK. This is not a lesson that this control-freak has learned graciously, but I am trying. (Side bar: I have watched a few too many TV re-runs lately, but in my defense, February).
2. Take up as much space as you can. As I write this, I notice that even now, I am sitting with my legs crossed. Even at my desk, I position my bodies in ways to minimize the space I take up in the world. I think this narrative is particularly strong for women, who are taught to be small, unobtrusive, delicate, amenable, and accommodating to other people’s wishes. Not to demand too much space. Just look at the gendered way people sit on public transportation, and it is pretty clear that there is a gendered trope that we play out daily. Loving these stock photos which demonstrate my point so beautifully. Good thing these ladies learned to “sit like a lady” or they may not have become stock-photo famous! I do make a conscious decision to try to sit in a gendered masculine way on the tube for this reason, but the fact that it is a conscious act, not an automatic impulse indicates to me that this is not the the convention I have been trained to learn.
To actively try to take up more and more space is so bold, defiant, dissident, and recalcitrant that as I stretch my fingers wider and further I feel a surge of power through every bit of my body, making me feel like I could explode out of my fingertips and into the universe.
Here’s to taking up space in this big and beautiful world and to “hold[ing] yourself with joy and purpose!” (Kisuule).
3. Pigeon demands emotional honesty. I have come to realize that I can’t lie to myself in pigeon. It is humbling that this pose, whose namesake is essentially a flying rat in urban centers, can ruin me in myriad ways. Pigeon, an intense hip opener where you lower your heart below the rest of your body, for me is a posture of intense vulnerability and is a different emotive experience every time. Many yoga instructors talk about how your body stores emotions in all sorts of strange places, and as you explore those places, you may become aware of different feelings. It might be true that we”store our exes in our hips” because the experience of this posture often aligns with where I am in my life, even when I don’t really want to acknowledge it. After a heart-rending breakup, these hips hold all the pain, loss, and agony in the world causing swells of emotion that break over the brink and crash around me as I struggle to breath in and out through the waves of hurt. Other times, this vulnerability draws of feelings of fear – fear of rejection, worthlessness, and emptiness.
It is so fascinating for me to settle into a pigeon pose and check in with myself, as it is the one pose that my body demands me to be honest with myself. As you might expect, at times, I dread this pose with a burning passion as I don’t want to feel the feelings (aka I don’t want to weep in front of the super babely yoga instructor!), but other times I look forward to getting to the root of what is going on, and finding some release. Yoga class is, after all, one of my top public places to cry (right behind the hushed, vaulted sanctuaries in beautiful cathedrals).
4. Sometimes the most important pose is the grin on your chin. I attended a class this summer by Eoin Finn, the creater of the blissology approach to yoga. One of my favourite quotes was:
The grin on your chin is more important than your chin on your shin.
Sometimes in the hard bits (like the chair poses that never end!), I try to remember this and turn the corners of my mouth towards the sky, and something marvelous happens. The tough bits become a little bit less awful.
I hope you are pointing the corners of your mouth towards the sky today and that you have a beautiful weekend!
2 thoughts on “4 life lessons I keep re-learning in yoga class”
You are spot on with this article Jen! I absolutely adore this! You struck so many cords for me, and inspired me to get back into Belly Dance as well! Heh. Lots of love to you. -ENB
So lovely to hear that, ENB! I feel so lucky to be surrounded by inspirational women like you, and I have been loving following your yoga journey over Facebook! ❤