Open your heart, share your love generously.
I had the pleasure of subbing a Chakra Flow class just over a week ago. The Chakra for that week was the heart Chakra - meaning yes, a backbend heavy practice. I have for many years had a hate-hate relationship with backbends, but recently have been attempting at least to make friends with them, to observe the discomforts rather than fleeing from them. A woman came up to me after the class, and told me that although she had a rod in her back, and she had nearly walked out of the studio when I introduced the theme, she said that the way the class was sequenced and presented made it accessible to her - that even if she could not wear the full expression of each posture, she left that day feeling her heart open, and her body lightened of previous perceived limitations. Another student yesterday, with herniated disks, told me he had never been able to 'do' yoga since his injury, but felt the practice that day was presented in a 'kind, gentle manner', that allowed him to find new possibilities in his body and mind in that moment.
This is yoga to me - through the practice we make what seems impossible at the moment, possible over time. It's magical to me. Physically I've found new corners of Neverland (the name I have for postures that are at the moment un-accessible) over the past 2 and half years of practice, but slowly the landscape changes. What seemed impossible in 2009 is now part of my regular practice, and poses I didn't even know existed are in the Neverland category, as something I am working towards. But more importantly than physical progress is the quiet in my mind, and finally, finally a willingness, a courage to explore the shadowland in my soul, to bring to light buried traumas, to remove the armor I have worn for so much of life so I too, can blow my heart wide open and live a life free of fear. This will be the second time in my life I call on this practice to be a ship to carry me over a sea of dark thoughts, to be refuge from the darkness of my mind.
I believe the physical traumas we experience in life write themselves into our bodies, like psychic tattoos. The deep work of yoga can release those deeply held memories and beliefs. I have a heavy mantle of somatic emotional pain, of transgressions, of violence. Once the autonomy of one's body is breached, it is no longer safe or sacred. I am damaged. I have no safe space in my own being. Backbends have always scared me, as they require me to open my most vulnerable areas to attack, belly and throat up and exposed, heart open, easy target. Each and every time I drop my head back into Ustrasana, I feel that hand grab my hair and wrench my head back, rendering me powerless. But I am tired of living with this darkness. I want to be touched in love without seeing the flashes of hands holding me down, and so, I will do this work. I will reclaim this place of openness.
So here is the state of the backbend at the start:
In honesty they don't look nearly as bad as they feel - right hip (as per the usual) likes to be in external rotation always, shoulders are tight, but not a bad place to start from. This was taken last week. Tonight I did my practice, tears streaming down my face, lots of inversions, and of course more backbends. They do feel better, but each time I prepare to enter the postures, I have to gather my courage, beat back the fear and un-grit my teeth. Time, diligent practice, tears. Hard work. I will reclaim my body.