Today I practiced yoga at home. I turned the music up loud and stopped thinking and just started moving. I needed to get out of my own head; I needed to stop the constant stream of thoughts with an incredibly hard, challenging physical practice.
I used to practice like this a lot – I used to only go to vinyasa classes and never spent more than five breaths in any posture. But when I started doing yoga more seriously and pursuing teacher training, my body wanted to slow down. When I learned more about alignment, I wanted to slow down. I wanted to feel what was happening in my body and start to generate that conversation between the body and the mind and form a generous relationship between them. And so I did. I stopped listening to music and started listening to my breath. And it was everything I needed at the time.
But today, listening to my breath was not an option. I’ve been having boatloads of anxiety lately. Some is good – related to successes and positive changes in my career. Some is not so good – like the fact that our house is a disaster in the midst of a bathroom remodel gone wrong and terribly slow, living without water for 11 days and now 13 without a toilet. Like the fact my heart breaks every time my dog doesn’t eat breakfast or looks at me with sad puppy dog eyes because I’m just not sure how much time we have left.
So yeah, thinking was not an option today. So I didn’t think. I blasted music and moved. And in the middle I felt guilty. You’re so selfish, I said to myself, Tanner could use a walk and instead you’re practicing yoga. As if that’s going to fix anything. Yoga won’t get your bathroom up and running. Yoga won’t fix your dog. Yoga won’t clean your house. And so I got a bit angry. Why do I do this anyway? In fact, for the past two weeks I’ve practiced yoga very little, because it’s been so hectic. Once upon a time I thought yoga made my life better. Today I thought maybe it was all bullshit.
At the end of my practice I was still feeling anxious. And guilty. And not complete. So I shut off the music and practiced the 4-7-8 breath. Inhale for a count of four, hold the breath for a count of 7, exhale for a count of 8. Over and over and over. Inhaling all the way up to my collarbones. Expansion to the point I wondered if lungs could burst. Exhaling to the point of emptiness, so empty my abdominals had to contract, hard, to push out the last bits of air.
And in those exhales I felt it. The tears. The sigh. The relaxation of my body as it gave into my emotions.
Anxiety is, for me, almost always correlated to my self worth. Anxiety is about future events, about the unknown – when is my dog going to die, when is my bathroom going to be functioning, when can I get to bed before midnight regularly again and start to sleep? But beneath those unknown events – have I been a good dog mom? Does Tanner know he’s been loved? Did he have a good life? Am I not smart enough for home improvement projects? Why did I always take water for granted before? Why can’t I be at peace and know that it’s only a few weeks and some people go lifetimes without access to water?
But the tears reminded me – I am human. Emotions are real. And it’s okay to feel them. And you can allow yourself to feel them and still find comfort.
So yes, the yoga does work. The yoga does make my life better. Not because it walks my dog or makes him better, or because it cleans my house or fixes my bathroom. Yoga makes my life better because it gives me an hour to let myself be whoever I am in that moment, and to be okay with that. And while I might have to be strong and power through the other 23 hours of the day, for just that brief moment in time, I can feel guilty and angry and heartbroken and I can cry and let myself be. So yes. The yoga works.