Vulnerability in Yoga

Posted on: September 22nd, 2015 By:
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When I look at an experienced yogi stepping onto the mat and smoothly moving their body from asana to asana, I am left with a feeling of awe and inspiration. So when a dear friend of mine suggested that I give yoga a try, I was horrified.  I had never been particularly athletic, my track record for bumping into things was infamous, and I couldn’t even touch my toes.

But eventually I did, and if there was something that I have never regretted before, it was definitely this. Don’t get me wrong. It wasn’t easy. In fact, the day I walked into my first yoga class, I was ready to bolt out of there. But the look of excitement on my instructor’s face when I told him this was my first yoga class and the gentle corrections that he provided, brought me to a state of belonging. All of a sudden, my wobbliness and weak wrists seemed more like the beginning of a journey and less like the ugly stumbles of an embarrassed newbie. In that moment, my vulnerability was met with a nurturing environment that would lead to a newfound spiritual experience. And the truth is, that even though I still feel embarrassed and frustrated when I can’t do something just so, that feeling becomes less and less pronounced as the love and triumph of my yoga community is reinforced with every class at sanctuary.

Recently, that feeling of embarrassment resurfaced. I live in co operative housing, which means we make all our major household decisions together. This means that whether or not things go your personal way is dependent on whether it’s best for the majority of the members. Well about a week ago, it had been suggested that we needed to figure out a more advantageous parking situation. Which sounds like a great idea, except the solution was to cut down two magnolia trees in the back of the house. When I heard this, I was absolutely devastated. My stomach lurched and I felt more anxious than I have in a very long time.

That whole week I was consumed by the thought of having these trees that I felt such a spiritual connection with, torn down for the sake of two extra parking spots. I had no idea what to do. I was so scared of what our house’s final decision would be. After all, for someone who looks at trees as just another object, my sentimental attachments would seem frivolous. Needless to say, I couldn’t find solace with anything. I was sure that my argument would lose out. The last thing on my mind was the yoga class I had Friday afternoon. But I went anyway, more because I didn’t want to go home and less because I was in the mood for it. When I got there, I could not concentrate. I did not feel any peace.

My instructor starts in on his introduction to that class, and to my utter shock, he begins talking about the heaviness in his chest that had struck him that week. That same heaviness that mirrored my own. He speaks about prana and the way it takes shape in the body like water in a vessel. He tells us how he found solace in breathing into that heaviness. His honesty and vulnerability woke me up. All of a sudden it’s so incredibly clear to me that instead of lurking in my anxiety, my mourning, and my fear of being seen like a nutcase; I should have been vulnerable. I should have reached out to my housemates and allowed them to see the depth of what those trees meant to me. So, I did. And although some of them point blank told me they just didn’t understand my sentiment, they also told me that they could see the reality of my feelings.

We didn’t end up cutting down those trees. Instead, they still stand tall, representing the strength that came from the vulnerability that initially seemed like a weakness. I still feel self conscious when I get on the figurative & literal mat and can’t do something I see so many others accomplishing with ease. When I do, I think of those trees. My wobbliness is a part of my growth. My community is here to support me as I allow the places I have closed off to find space. Even though it means stumbling more than I want to, I am blessed with the capacity to get back up again and try another tree pose.

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