The other day, someone asked me, “how come your hips are still tight even with all the yoga your practice?” It is an interesting question that can be answered in many different ways. On a physical level, sitting down for long periods as well as activities like cycling and running can affect the hips that way. On an energetic and emotional level, tight hips can sometimes signify a certain degree of resistance, or emotions being held, trust or any number of reasons, depending on where the individual is in life. In my case, mine were feeling a bit tight because of a combination of physical and emotional reasons which I won’t go into.
What interested me about the question is the idea behind it that a chosen activity or spiritual path can be a cure to life. Yoga, prayer, whatever path we choose, we sometimes think that it will protect us from life.
When I was a child, I believed so strongly in prayer. I still do. But as a child I would pray for a specific thing, mostly for my father to come home, and when he didn’t I got angry. What I wanted, really, was to not feel the pain of it all, but of course, that never happened. And then, I thought that God had a personal vendetta against me because of it. As I got older, I learned of another way to deal with pain – disconnection. Alcohol was a great tool for this method, along with a life of partying, and then sleeping it off. It worked for a little while, and then it got old.
Then, in the great old age of 30, yoga made an appearance. Not the gym yoga I had done before, but the kind of yoga that gave you space to be with yourself. I looked at all the happy, healthy people and thought, that this might be it, the cure to all pain and suffering. Asana practice led to meditation and stillness, and prayer. Slowly, I worked through my physical injuries, and then the emotional injuries, but guess what? There are days when the hips are still tight, or the shoulder is out of whack. Sometimes I still spend half of class crying into my mat.
Because life doesn’t end and as long as we live in the world, shit will happen. When people claim to not feel pain or sadness anymore, I wonder if they have let the parts of themselves that can feel all that die. And yes, it is safe when you’ve learn to shut the world out, living a solitary existence, but is that really living?
The only cure to life is death.
All the yoga, prayer and meditation did not stop my father from passing away. It doesn’t stop my shoulders from being sore sometimes, and it sure as hell doesn’t stop sadness or anger from making an appearance in my life. Instead it has taught me to stop and take some time exploring these injuries and emotions.
This is the path of surrender without giving up, knowing when to back away instead of walking away. It is taking the labels of “good” and “bad” out of emotions and just feeling them. Crying when you need to cry. Being angry when you need to do that. Taking time alone when you need that. Or simply walking up to a friend and giving them a hug because that’s what you need. Have you ever felt like crying but ended up laughing hysterically instead? Well, that is the energy moving.
Sometimes the energy just needs an outlet.
A friend at work asked me how I could still breathe and hold my space even when I am angry. The answer is simple. I have since stopped trying to push my anger down and sit on it. If I need to, I will get up and go for a walk. Sometimes I get into an inversion just so I can see the world in another light. And of course, breathing techniques help. The way I manage my anger though, might not be the same way you manage yours, and it is your journey to find your tools.
Yoga, prayer or meditation – shit will happen.
It is how you deal with it that will change. Surrender and acceptance doesn’t stop sadness, but it allows you to feel with a certain degree of peace. Self exploration in the silence allows you to find safe ways of letting emotions flow through you in a compassionate way. And perhaps, you had these skills all along, but as you read more books of people telling you how it should be, you forgot your own intuition, the higher Self that guides you through the smooth and rough. This Self which is made of equal parts shadow and light, and knows things that your brain might not.
So explore. Learn. Feel.
There is no cure to grief apart from grieving.
And there is no cure to life apart from living.