There’s a funny thing that happens when you accidentally take a break from your yoga practice. The longer you rest, the harder it is to get back into it. You forget how to begin again. Or maybe that’s just me.
I’ve been neglecting this blog, and my yoga practice in general. Life happened. I didn’t run out of things to say or thoughts on the subject, but I ran out of the ability to manage my time. There was a time when nothing could keep me from my mat. If I worked a double shift, I would go in the morning.
And then I burned out. It happens.
I won’t go into it, but I had a series of personal and professional disappointments that sucked up a lot of emotional energy. For a while I was still going to class sporadically, as a coping mechanism as much as anything else.
Then I fell in love. So it goes.
The things I’ve read about getting back into a yoga practice are mostly interested in doing the Asana without injury; reforming the athletic habit. Of course, that is part of the problem; it’s nerve wracking to approach an inherently physical activity when you’re aware of the atrophy that’s occurred. But I don’t think it’s that simple. I think there’s a way that I resent Yoga for not being able to protect me from the currents of life.
This is a blog. I’ve written a bit about myself and my practice, but mostly in the context of wanting to teach about Yoga, because I thought that was my calling. But I started feeling instead like my words on the subject had no value, that my life as a Yoga teacher was going nowhere, that my work was fundamentally meaningless.
In another context, one may call this a crisis of faith. In another context, this may be called relapse.
I don’t have any personal experience with addiction, but I do have some experience with Mental Health Nonsense™, and I also have some experience with, like spiritual seeking or whatever the kids are calling it these days.
Every time I’ve experienced this feeling before, I have given up on the Old Thing and sought out a New Thing that seemed like a better fit. It’s kind of how I got into Yoga. I’ve always been the kind of person who decides not to continue to pursue something that is #notworkingout. Generally that’s even been the right choice, all things considered. I stopped playing softball after I dislocated my shoulder. I stopped practicing Catholicism when I realized there was no way for my sexuality and religion to play nicely in my internal landscape. But Yoga has made me genuinely happy. It’s helped me recognize my bad habits and coping mechanisms. I’ve learned some awareness, some tranquility. I had even started to dial back my road rage.
Feeling like Yoga was being taken away from me was a huge emotional loss. I didn’t know how to not give up, and I knew in some way, some part of my practice was dying.
I still don’t know what that means, that some part of my practice has died. I do know that in Yoga, we mark death as a new beginning. One breath dies, a new one is born, and we call awareness of this cycle Pranayama. At the end of class we take Savasana #corpsepose to mark the end of Asana in the studio and the beginning of Yoga in the world.
Being born is traumatic. Essential, unavoidable, and never consented-to, it is the reason that transition in life is so hard. I needn’t extend the analogy too far to make my point. You feel warm and safe, something shifts, you feel squeezed and pinched. Then you feel squishy and vulnerable and fragile. I recently moved in with my partner. During the move I felt immense pressure, and now I feel intensely exposed and raw, in a way that I haven’t before.
My partner is extremely considerate of my feelings and well being, and I’m very happy. A transition doesn’t have to be an unhappy one to be A Lot™. Turns out it’s easier to stay in bed with your lover than it is to go do the work on yourself that you know needs doing. I stopped going to class virtually altogether, because between three jobs and a relationship, I didn’t think I had the luxury of time it takes. And sometimes, that’s been true. Leaving the house before 7:00am and not getting back until 10:30pm with hardly a lunch break has not been an uncommon occurrence. I also have a bit of a habit of wanting to take care of my loved ones before myself.
My point is this: not going to Yoga has been both essential and harmful. I’ve needed the time and space, and taking those things has been brutal on my mental and physical well-being. Some part of my practice has died, and some other part is being born. I’m writing this as a promise to myself, my loved ones, and the students I have yet to meet: I will keep doing the work.
“For last year’s words belong to last year’s language And next year’s words await another voice. And to make an end is to make a beginning.” – T.S. Eliot