I have been “Sitting on the mat” for a little over two years. The common misconception about yoga is you sit on the yoga mat and meditate. While there is indeed yoga for meditation, there is more to yoga that meditation. While meditation has benefits to mental and emotional well being of a person, so does the other aspects of yoga. This post however is not about the benefits of yoga. It is the lessons I have learnt about life from my yoga practices.
Lesson I; When you shift your focus you gain balance
Yoga for balance requires the use of the eyes to acquire the much needed balance. When you are learning, you have to keep shifting you gaze in several focus points until you hold that one space where your body achieves the balance. When we are going through rough patches, we ruminate a lot on our points of hurt. We think, and rethink about our places of brokenness. We hurt ourselves over and over by replaying what happened, the what ifs, and if only’s. While it takes a lot of mental power, we can shift our focus and change our thought patterns which eventually changes our emotional state. Robin Sharma, in his book 5AM Club clearly states that the mind can only process one thought at a time. Joel Osteen in his book, You Can You Will says, the mind plays things like a slide show. We can change the slide if what is on display is not pleasing and makes us feel morose. If we change our focus, we can change our emotional state, which in turn changes the experiences of our day, minute second. It however takes time.
Lesson 2 : It takes time
We cannot wake up one day and do a yoga pose perfectly. It takes time and practice and a lot of patience with the self. Processing emotional and psychological trauma is the same. One day you wake up and you feel you are back to square one. One day you feel you are where you were yesterday. One day you wonder what it feels like to be normal. One day you feel okay. It is the same with yoga. The first time I tried a head stand, I almost broke my neck, literally. I had neck pain for a week. I did hot massages daily, but turning my head was a slow robotic motion. Now I can hold my head stand for over a minute. Patience. A lot of patience with the self will get you to a state of emotional balance that we are more often that not desperate for when we are processing trauma.
Lesson 3 : Strength is nurtured
There are many types of planks in Yoga. Basic plank, low plank, dolphin plank and upward plank are the common ones. All of them require input from the upper body, abdominal core and thigh muscles. These muscles do not grow in a day. It took me a year to get to do a proper basic plank and a lot longer to do a low and dolphin planks. When processing emotional trauma, it is usually a wish that it could be a light bulb that you could just switch and move on and life is back to normal. It takes a lot more than that. When we invest ourselves emotionally in a venture, a job or a relationship, we put in a little and sometimes a lot of ourselves in it as well. When that venture, job or relationship crushes, a little of who we are is crushed as well. The deeper the investment, the longer it will take to process and to let go. Our eventual space is where we can look back and smile, but it takes time to get to this. And a lot of emotional and psychological nurturing. We have to allow ourselves to grow the strength to eventually completely let go.
Lesson 4: The beauty of Breath
There are many benefits that come with deep breathing. The basic of it is, we can breath. We are alive. If we are alive, we still have a chance in this life. A lot of the emotional recovery journey involves letting go of negative energy and letting in positive energy. Adrianne, the yogi whose videos I practice with says, “Breath in lots of love, breath out lots of love”. You can picture yourself breathing in what you want in your life, allowing what replenishes your soul, just like breath replenishes the fresh oxygen to the system, and picture yourself letting go of all the accumulated toxicity in your emotional and mental system. In letting go of the toxicity, you can then create more space for good things that are to come. Regular breathing exercises is known to reduce depression and restore calm. Anger management programs incorporate breathing in order to calm down. Breathing can lead to better sleep. Breathing has many benefits. Its beautiful just to breath.
lesson 5: Don’t push so hard
When going through a hard phase, there is the tendency to want to get over it quickly. To move on. To start life a new. To reset. In this desire to, we tend to just want to get over things. Many friends even advise people going through grief to suck it up and move on. Human beings are not robots. Even robots need diagnostic processes and occasional service and repair. If machines are pushed hard they wear fast. In yoga, we cannot push the poses either. We have to allow ourselves to learn slow. Not to perfect the pose but to ensure we reap off the benefits that come with each pose. The stacking of the body, head over heart, heart over pelvis, the richness in the twists, the fluidity of the balances. We have to appreciate that if we push it, we harm ourselves. If we ease into it, we reap all the benefits. We do not wish to bleed to those who did not hurt us in future. The only way is to pace ourselves. Something amazing is, our bodies know what it can handle, and it will always tell you when you are pushing too hard. Relax and take the journey. A day at a time, and when a day is too long, even a minute is just as good.
Lesson 6: Take a break
Yoga, like any excise program needs a break for the body to recover. This can be achieved by resting parts of a body occasionally as you exercise others or just taking a rest day or rest week. Processing emotional trauma needs occasional breaks from our usual space. This is the space that brings triggers, the space that reminds us of our hurts, the space where we sit and ruminate, the space where the quiet just brings back all the memories. A break calls us to reach else where to make new memories. To go on holiday. To change the location. To go for a nature walk. To replenish the energy. This break allows us to keep processing what needs to be processed. It rejuvenates. It brings hope. It takes us outside of ourselves. That there is a life beyond our pain. And we know that since this pains shall eventually come to an end, it gives us something to look forward to.
Lesson 7: Celebrate your milestones.
One of the challenging poses that I am still working on is the crow pose. It requires a lot of upper body strength and balancing skills. I have somersaulted severally, landed on my forehead, injured my arm soft tissues, but I keep going back to it to practice. The first time I held it for 3 seconds, I was so elated. It was a big thing. Same goes for holding a tree pose for a minute or a low plank for 30 seconds. Emotional healing, just like any yoga poses has milestones. One day you couldn’t smile, now you can. Celebrate. There was a time you had forgotten what to laugh means, when you find yourself surprised about the sound of your laugh, celebrate. You go one day without ruminating, celebrate. You had forgotten what believing means. One day you find you believe in something again, celebrate. Celebrate the hugs. Celebrate the smiles. Celebrate the free spirit. Celebrate the laughter. Celebrate the good mood. Celebrate the love. Each milestone you celebrate gives you hope , that you will indeed ride to next one soon.