When I moved back to Maryland from the west coast, I reconnected with one of my favorite yoga teachers in New York City. Several times a year, I would make the trek via train to visit her and take a class at her yoga studio. The classes were always packed; it wouldn’t matter what time of day it was or the day of the week. People flock to her because her energy is contagious, and the majority of the students seem to be more alive in her glow. She has this unique ability to hold you in her presence for a few moments, making you feel like you are the only person in the room. And then someone else catches her eye, and she is off to say her hellos to them, leaving you floating in her aftermath of positive energy.
There were several occurrences during a class when suddenly, the emotions that were ignored and repressed within my body decided to surface. I would spend most of the class in Child’s Pose, crying, folded up physically and shutting off while the rest of the class continued their flowing dance of yoga. Then, while my forehead pressed into the mat, anger would begin to surface from deep within me. This isn’t why I came here. I didn’t travel all this way, take the day off from work, or spend this large (for me) sum of money to have a total breakdown! Tears would drip from my eyes and onto my yoga mat, and in my mind, I imagined that the whole room could hear them.
I would stay in Child’s Pose for a while; my ego had gotten the best of me because even though I was in my mid-thirties, I was too embarrassed to allow anyone to see me crying. Displaying that vulnerability felt weak, and the tears would be a dead giveaway of my weakness. While in Savasana (Corpse Pose), my body surrendered to exhaustion. I felt as though I had just finished climbing a mountain. The class was not physically exhausting because I barely participated in the physical practice of yoga. Instead, the emotional work was what was truly exhausting.
I said goodbye to my teacher, and as I walked to the train station, the tears began again. But the emotions had transformed this time from vulnerability and anger to its distant cousin, disappointment. I was disappointed in myself because the whole trip felt like a waste of my time and money. I traveled all this way to study with an inspiring teacher and spent the entire time crying on a yoga mat.
The lesson came to me as I sat staring out the window on the train. Being in that present moment and allowing those emotions to surface is what I came there to learn. To break the cycle of repressing my feelings, pushing them down, or pretending that I had everything in order and perfect in my life. I needed to learn how to surrender and how to accept myself. I needed to work through those emotions so that I could move past them. This was a transformation in my life and yoga practice!
Transformations often have to get ugly before they can spiral into something magical. We must trudge through the thickness of our emotions in order to take flight. Some days my yoga practice looks like a dance on my mat, and other days I’m in Child’s Pose crying. The difference now is that I listen in those moments of despair. I listen to the voice deep within me that tells me what I need. I continue to try to be present with the emotions and breathe through them. Allowing the anger, disappointment, or vulnerability to be felt, seen, and processed.
When you feel at a loss, continue to roll out the yoga mat and trust that this physical practice was working for you before, and it is bound to feel like it’s working again. Your yoga practice is a balance, a continuous cycle of opening and closing, reaching and surrendering. Continue to tune into your body and listen to that soft voice that lives inside each of us. Trust in letting go of the ego, be vulnerable with yourself, and allow your yoga practice to reflect the lessons you need to take off your mat and into the world to be the best version of yourself.