Visiting instructor Class #3: Yoga and Love. Wow.
Two themes weaved throughout the class:
- Love is available to us all. But. Instead of searching for love, we instead just need to open; instead of seeking and trying to track and trap love (as if it’s some animal that we need to capture) we instead need to sit still, do our own inner work to release the blockages we have against love (conscious or unconscious, known or unknown) – and when we are open, love will find us.
- Heartbreak is a rite of passage. If we risk giving and receiving love, we also risk giving and receiving pain. If we risk loving, we also risk heartbreak. But instead of avoiding pain, instead of avoiding heartbreak, we can honor heartbreak. Certainly we don’t need to seek it out, or inflict it on ourselves; but when it does happen, we can learn from it, use it to build our character (more on that from Class #2), and treat it with respect instead of fear or contempt.
Dave (the teacher) then went on to explain that every yoga class is a study in life, love, and death. When we enter a class, we simply do not know what it is we are about to experience – much like a baby entering the world. As we explore poses (and in exploring poses, we explore our own physical bodies [and often our internal mental and emotional states as well]), we find things we like and things we dislike; things we love and things we hate; things we wish we had more of, and things we wish we had less of – we experience love and heartbreak. At the end of class, we enter a savasana (literally translated as “corpse pose”), where we learn how to release, how to let go – basically, how to die (in a very mini, micro way).
And while the stated focus of this session was the romantic side of love, I actually had a different experience right in the class: I got to explore the elements surrounding self-love.
When I walked into the studio space this afternoon, I was tired. I was physically tired, and I was also a little emotionally raw – perhaps from the physical fatigue, but perhaps also from the subtle effects yoga practice has on my body mind and spirit (it’s a nuanced, tricky little bugger, this whole “yoga” thing). And when I’m tired, and a little raw, I feel my defenses start to break down a bit – and therefore I start to feel unfiltered, uncensored experience. And while this is good, it can also be tough. This afternoon, it was both.
As I sat down on my yoga mat, I saw two of the center’s instructors sitting directly beside me. To me, these women appear strong, confident, powerful, skilled, assertive, firm, powerhouses of people. And despite my best efforts, I feel myself begin to feel intimidated in their presence. And why? I’m certain these women have absolutely no realization of me, and I’m confident that their intention is *not* to intimidate me (or anyone else, for that matter); I’m willing to wager large sums of money that they have minimal awareness of their confident air – their demeanor is just how they are made. And despite the conscious self-talk I engage in (“Stef, you are a 35-year-old woman, not a pre-teen adolescent; you are a successful business executive at a major US corporation, not some unintelligent, unmotivated flunkie; you are a wife and a daughter and have many friends, not some unlovable creature; you are healthy and beautiful, not fat and ugly…”), I still feel insecure. Despite all of the focused intrapersonal work I have done (and continue to do), I still feel not-quite-right, not-quite-good-enough, not-quite-okay-just-as-I-am. Sigh.
So there I was: physically sore, emotionally raw, now mentally spinning a bit – and the teacher begins a class focused on the charged topic of love? Lord help me…
But instead of shirking away, or instead of putting up more defenses, or instead of tearing myself down, I did something a bit “radical”: I closed my eyes. I let go of the external, and focused on the internal. I released myself of outside expectations, and checked in with my inside needs. Instead of judging myself against exterior measures, I asked my interior girl how I could best support her, how I could help her feel whole, happy, content, loved. I don’t need to feel intimidated; I don’t need to feel “less than”; I don’t need to feel unworthy. I am wonderful, exactly as I am. May I remember this, and may I sincerely believe it – with every cell/thought/space of my being.
So I closed my eyes, felt the strength and power and skills of my own body, and my own soul – and had a beautiful, loving experience.
Somewhere in the second half of the class, Dave (the teacher) commented that one Buddhist monk explained to him (Dave) that love isn’t a process of giving one’s heart away; instead, love is about making space in one’s heart where others can enter and join. This really spoke to me; instead of “putting myself out there”, and subjecting myself to the winds and whims of other people/other events/other situations, I can instead build myself up, and create spaciousness in my own being where others are welcome to come in if they like what they see. It’s a subtle shift, but a wildly powerful one. And it’s Buddhist, so of course it’s cool. *wink*
So, there you have it, yet another intense yoga session. And who says yoga is just about being bendy like a pretzel? There is sooooo much more to it than that. For me, anyway.