I like the peace in the backseat, I don’t have to drive, I don’t have to speak, I can watch the country side, I can fall asleep. I’ve been learning to drive my whole life. – Arcade Fire, “In the Backseat”
A few weeks ago, I completely unplugged for five days – no phone, no internet, no meetings. No to-do list. Whatever came up, I did it.
I walked down the street without a phone attached to the side of my head. I met people’s faces. I noticed the gum on the sidewalks. I heard children’s delight and sorrows. I spent a lot of time in solitude. I cleaned, I gleaned, I cooked. I meditated, journaled, slept, cried…then meditated, journaled, slept and cried some more. At long last – the time to genuinely take care of myself. Haha – I’d spent all of September encouraging self-care in our yoga classes, and there I was, stuffing emotions and exhausted!
What surfaced during this “purification retreat” was a strong priority to re-cultivate trust and love. I am, deep down, a loving and trusting person. I admire human beings, am in awe of humanity and adore people in general. But since this past summer’s emotional betrayal, I have struggled to feel comfortable and secure in relationships – even long-standing connections. Despite teaching many yoga classes and showing up for commitments over recent weeks, I have found myself sinking into fear and isolation.
So I am forcing myself to reach out and reconnect.
Asking for help is not always easy. For most of my life I was a self-reliant, “that’s OK, I can do it myself” gal. Hence the Arcade Fire quote above. I was always in the driver’s seat, making things happen. Never in the back seat, enjoying the ride. Only over the past 8 years or so have I been able to comfortably surrender to being helped by others…to letting someone else drive.
I must actively surrender to feeling vulnerable, taking risks and accepting others’ care. I am lucky and grateful to be part of spiritual fellowships and social groups that encourage honesty and outreach. In addition, I can practice being cared for through specific yoga exercises, such as borrowing support and energy from the elements of earth and air.
During the last weeks of September, our classes explored just that. First we grounded into earth energy. Figuratively inhaling through our feet to the crown of our heads, then exhaling back down through the soles, we rooted ourselves into the infinite stability, balance and foundation of the ground beneath us. Aside from our typical, Integral Yoga influenced set, we added standing and balancing poses such as Triangle Pose, Warrior 2 and Warrior 3 to truly reinforce the earth’s strong and ever-present support.
Next we drew upon the infinite air around us by oxygenating deeply. We energized our classic IY set by inserting Pranayama practices throughout. For example, during our Sun Salutations, we started with the rapid, naval-pumping Kapaalabhaati breath in Mountain Pose, then flowed through the 1st half of our movements with deep, three-part Deergha Swaasam breathing; in Cobra, we paused for more Kapaalabhaati; then we completed the 2nd half of the flow with Deergha Swaasam. We also turned up the heat in our floor poses by adding Kapaalabhaati to Downward Facing Boat and Upward Boat.
For me, being fortified by these natural resources represents being cared for by something or someone outside of ourselves. I surrender to being helped – and generously, that support is there for me.
If all other yoga intentions fail, the one practice that always comes through for me is surrendering control with every exhale during Poschimotanaasana. There is something about incorporating mindful Deergha Swaasam during this seated forward fold that proves profoundly effective every time. Each inhale is an opportunity to infuse myself with a positive intention. With every exhale, I let go physically and emotionally, curling inward in the upper body and sinking inward with my mind. Using long, thoroughly emptying exhales, I symbolically surrender obstacles and dissolve distractions.
If I learned anything from my own classes in September, it’s that sometimes self-care means allowing something or someone else to care for me. If I truly yearn to take my yoga into action and bring my healthiest and strongest self off the mat and into the world, I have to get out of the driver’s seat.
Turning it over and surrendering control might be the only way to rebuild trust and love.
P.S. BTW, during my “retreat,” I also went to the Nationals’ final three home games. If you’re wondering what baseball has to do with Yoga In Action…well first of all, because I love baseball so much, these three nights were acts of self-care! Most importantly – I think I reached some kind of Samadhi when I witnessed the Phillies clinch the National League East title on the 2nd night! I’ve only seen that happen on TV, and it was thrilling! I was completely blown away by the energy and although a true Nats fan, I felt a one-ness with the 1,000’s of Phillies followers there. Awesome!