yoga

Advice Column: How Do I Get Back To Yoga After A Bad Experience?

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{Rebelle Society’s Weekly Advice Column: Dear Muse}

Aloha Muse,

Perhaps a little background is in order. Long, convoluted story short: raped/molested/violated by a male at 11 (I’m male- I guess I identify as such, but I suspect under all the emotional and psych armor, I’m gender fluid, although I prefer to think we all have that capacity). Lots of resultant drugs and trauma and running away from home. Think: “cascade of unhealthy behaviors and relationships.” Army and Iraq at 19. Heroin at 22. Blah blah blah. Not a rare story, unfortunately.

Luckily, my dad turned me on to Buddhism at the onset of my conscious awareness, I suppose you could say “raised in the faith” although sans the dogma, trappings, and sangha community. I can distinctly remember looking at an Iyengar book with B.K.S. pictured in Asana at like 11.

Lucky, I know. Yet, because of issues with masculinity/vulnerability (or my perceived interpretation of others’ perception of) I never came to the mat. God forbid the world should see the truth of my sensitivity.

Eventually, last year around this same time, I emerged from another Heroin hole of dependence, and fell onto the mat like a desperate person clings to wood in a flood. Specifically Ashtanga, Vande Gurunam mantra repetition and all. Now, I subsequently have my own opinion on the rigidity of the style, and it’s appropriateness for all practitioners (Pattabhi Jois was like 18-19 when Krishnamacharya prescribed his particular vinyasas of asana practice, and from what I understand, everyone got a self-tailored practice). It’s no surprise to me that Ashtangis are plagued with injury- the crazy ‘cool-aid’ drinking part is that they think injury is a milestone on the path to “liberation” I guess? I dunno.

Regardless, I found an Ashtanga Shala near the school I go to, and proceeded to “practice and all is coming.” I understand on a deep level that connecting with my innate, gentle, and peaceful Buddha nature, underneath all the pain and hurt and armor, is my path to healing. As Thich Nhat Hanh says, and MLK: we must love the hate away, we must treat our fear like the most precious fragile flower.

So, centering on Ujjayi, being gentle and patient with myself- it was going really well. I was sweating a lot, more than most, I guess. My drishti and Ujjayi was I’m sure often more intense and Agro than most. I’m sure, even, that my asana didn’t unfold and blossom as much as they exploded- I don’t know, I was too busy thinking of drishti, Ujjayi, and muladhara bandha.

And then one day the husband of the husband and wife team came and crouched down in front of me during seated poses- Marichiasana 1 or something- and said: “you need to stop forcing (this is in front of the whole class, mind you). My wife has tried to tell you…. and now I’m telling you…. the strength needs to come from the inside…. not forced aggressively…. you are approaching this wrong…. the power comes from inside..”

Then he like half mimicked some asana from his crouched position and walked away.

I wanted to stand up, spit in his face and tell him, “Motherfucker, you don’t think I know that? You think I would be here and not across the street at the Mixed Martial arts gym if I didn’t know I needed to stop aggressively forcing shit in my life with my teeth in a clench of rage?

Prick. I’ve been basically in a state of defensive posture since I was 11 or 12, and I need YOU to criticize my attempts at gently changing that, without judgement or condemnation?

I got plenty of judgement and condemnation. Trust me. You want forced aggression, try jail, or unspeakable participation in an immoral armed occupation.”

I’m getting a little worked up just thinking about it.

Suffice to say, I finished my practice that day, rolled up my cherished Manduka mat. Put it in a cubby, and never stepped foot in there again.

A shame on many fronts, most of which because I know on the realist level, he was my guru/mirror, reflecting back my truth and revealing an area in need of address.

Also, that was a bad ass mat. And, finally, I’m getting old and not so longer supple.

All ego based, I know. I never promised anyone the rose parade of liberation: simply promised myself that I would stop living in fear and it’s flip side of anger.

So. After a long winded, but perhaps even still not quite clear nor complete, snapshot of the situation, I suppose I am asking for your advice.

I really want that mat back.

In light, with aloha, and deep gratitude for sharing your story and making a safe place for me to share mine,

Wanting My Yoga Back

Hi Wanting My Yoga Back,

I am so sorry this happened to you. All of it, from beginning to end. I don’t have anything to say except, fuck. What a raw fucking deal. You are so strong and brave for becoming who you are, for getting through and above, and for reaching out. I’m blown away.

I’ve often wondered why such terrible things happen to people, and how we can make sense of them.

I don’t have an answer. The only thing that makes me feel like I have a purpose, that my “suffering” has a purpose, is by doing what you are doing- reaching out. Trying to connect. Make people realize that they are not alone.

Because it feels fucking lonely as hell. A lot of the time.

For this “guru/mirror” stuff- yes and no. Do we all need to address the things that trigger us? If we want to move forward, then yeah, I think so. But I think there is a time and a place and a person to help us through it.

And that person is usually not a yoga teacher.

My first thoughts: go to restorative yoga. Yin yoga. Find a teacher that is soft, and gentle, and that you can rest into. You need to rest, dude. You’ve been fighting so hard- you’re even fighting for your yoga. I imagine you’re tired.

For exercise and getting out your energy, yeah, go to M.M.A. Run. Lift heavy shit.

Drishti and pranayama: they mean nothing if the intention behind it is not for yoga, for release, for softening into the “universe”. Does that make sense? It’s like, breathe like Darth Vader all day, but if your mind isn’t on trying to relax into the connection of your breath, body, and soul, to every other breath, body, and soul, you’re just a funny breather.

I say to my students- especially when they get super intense about asana- no one cares if you can do a handstand if you’re still an asshole.

For you, my dear, what difference does it make how beautiful, how intense, how dedicated your practice is if you are still in pain?

The mat is a tool for you to work through your pain. Your practice is a method.

Your teachers- just guides.

You are the teacher. You are the one that decides how this thing goes.

This is something I’m working on (slowly, painfully, and failing a lot of the time), and I wonder if it will work for you: if a teacher gives you a cue or advice that doesn’t resonate, instead of giving away your power and becoming triggered, getting upset, letting it take you to those sad, dark places, keep it. Say, “meh- they don’t know my body. My story. What I need. I know that. I have the teacher inside of me, and I honor that guidance.”

Take out your mat, dear. Go speak to someone that can help you process all of this: it’s a lot. Don’t let anyone tell you differently.

Channel this energy, these feelings. Hijack them. When you’re angry, take that anger and vow to yourself that you will help every person you possibly can never feel this way. Sad? How can you make someone less sad? I promise you will feel better.

Does this make sense? I hope so.

Lots of hugs and biggest love to you,

Kristin Diversi, Assistant Editor-In-Chief

Read more Dear Muse:

How Can I Be A Mom, Wife & Me?

I Have A Lot To Be Angry About.

***

DEARMUSE

Hey Restless Creator, do you sometimes feel like life is lonesome, confusing or downright too much?

Rebelle Society’s weekly advice column, Dear Muse, is a space to send your questions, thoughts, and wonderings about this beautiful dark journey we’re on, no matter how deep, strange, or scary they may seem. In return we’ll offer you radical empathy, mischievous nourishment and creative advice.

Through reaching out and sharing our experiences, we shatter a stunting silence and create a space for growth. And by doing so, we may save ourselves, but we also may save each other.

Imagine, what if the whole world broke free and began to sing?

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