I read a quote recently about yoga and it goes something like this: yoga is not about getting your head to touch your ass, it’s about getting your head out of it (credit to the human, who's name I do not know, that delivered these words). Boom! Love it. For all of us yogis out there, that’s a good one.
As a practitioner for over a decade and a half, I wasn’t always into breathing, meditation, and the personal ooey-gooey stuff. I started practicing in college because I had a crush on a yoga gal. Once I stepped foot in class, all my mental and emotional stuff started coming up. I was completely intimidated by the bendy women. I was embarrassed because I couldn’t do a lot of the movements, had a hard time focusing and the breath, forget about it — I mean, ujjai (victorious breath) was more like Darth Vadar restricted my airhole.
It was not just physically challenging though, my insecurities around attraction and rejection related to women surfaced. I was 15 again and being turned down for a high school dance came up. My embarrassment around even talking to someone whom I thought was cute reappeared. My anxiety in regards to social acceptance and my appearance came into view with the volume turned up.
Instead of being excited about landing in a place filled with women in tight clothing, like a typical college guy, I sunk into shyness and fear. I would get to class 20 minutes early and place my mat in the back of the room. Then I would hide in the bathroom, until the exact class time and slink into the room next to the exit. As soon as class was over, I would rush to put my mat back, avoid eye contact and speed out without talking to anyone.
Despite my emotional discomfort, I returned to class because my body felt great. My energy levels improved, sleeping habits got better and I was thinking more clearly; the emotional instability, the tenderness, the vulnerability — I was a wreck. My neuroses and insecurities, my particularities and pecularness, my dysfunctions and imbalances surfaced. It wasn’t just around women, it was now seeping into every aspect of my life.
Was I smart enough? Was I strong enough? Was I good enough? Despite all the positive affirmations my teacher offered in class, I was feeling unglued and anything other than unified.
The process of removing my head from my ass had begun and I had no idea. Looking back on it, I realize what was happening — yoga was, my de-assing was, purging was, shedding my untruth was. My witness consciousness was pushing out some of my crap so it could be seen, heard and ultimately integrated.
The yoga practice brings these issues to the surface because the space I was in was safe. When non judgment and compassion are present and a deep sense of respect offered, I was allowed to let parts of myself hang out. Emotionally I was in an environment that allowed me to go to unsafe places. Not all yoga classes can create such a container, but many do. Along with the emotional security, the physical practice teases out what is stored in our organism. “The issues are in the tissues,” is a common line and they certainly pop out when doing hip openers, backbends or anything that pushes boundaries. The physical practice on its own is enough to surface stored emotions and past traumas.
Just by showing up to class I needed to confront my issues around women and my physical abilities. After class, I had more strength and stamina to face my day and the other mental/emotional musings that popped up. Breathing deeply became a bedrock during tough times.
Ten plus years later and the idea of “process” came into view. Yoga isn’t always about feeling great or even good. It’s not always about bringing things into order. It’s not always about love, light, positivity, unicorns and rainbows. Sometimes the rainbows are brown, the unicorns are stabled, negativity emerges and darkness surrounds.
The practice bores a hole, like a drill, and all our stuff rattles off and ripples out. This shedding of story, emotion, thought, and yuck-yuck can get quite sticky, crunchy and even uncomfortable. Warning: Possible Discomfort. No worries, it is all part of the process. If some or all of this is happening, don’t worry, it means the medicine is working.
To me, this is the sauce, the juice, the guts of our practice. Yoga puts a spotlight on the areas of our person where we need to work and it isn’t just the gluts. It invokes, engages and inflames our parts. This is the process, and it sure seems like it continually works us while we journey this path. Regardless of age, gender, race, or affiliation, yoga offers up an equal amount of ass whooping across the board.
As yogis we can challenge ourselves to go further, we can challenge ourselves to dig, we can challenge ourselves to grow by letting parts of ourself die, shrink and wither away. By accepting the invitation toward transformation, we have the opportunity to step fully into the process — to engage intimately with all our parts. Not necessarily to purge the ego or karma (Sanskrit term for one’s actions, in this and previous states of existence, that can determine our reality/destiny) but to partner with it, engage with it, to go deeper into relationship with it. Inviting in our shadow parts so we can ally with them is to be paramount for a fully expressed human experience.
So, the getting “head out of ass” can be a bit awkward and smelly — but it’s worth it. In the meantime, we might achieve a great butt and get our head to it. Wouldn’t that be ironic?!
Ahhh, the multi-dimensional human experience — why not turn up the volume with yoga.
At the end of the day, “showing up” for ourself by stepping into our vulnerability is courageous, cool and attractive.