One of the greatest things about yoga is that it gives us tools to respond to the challenges in our lives. There are few expected responses to the greeting 'How are you?' and we share our best faces on social media, but the reality is that we all have to deal with elements of pain, frustration, shame and sadness, sometimes buried so far down we may barely sense it ourselves. Society and our education system give us little coaching for for how to respond to these emotions, and the growing occurrence of debilitating stress and depression suggests that the consequences are highly damaging.
I'm a fan of the blogger Glennon Melton who describes life as "Brutiful", beautiful and brutal at the same time. If we think that we're in control and have things figured out, life and our fellow humans can throw up the unexpected, unearth our biggest fears, and shake everything we count as secure.
Q. Why do you cry so often?
Last month I was exploring a heart based yoga practice in the classes I taught and in my own time on the mat. In a yogic perspective the heart goes beyond our romantic feelings. The heart chakra (energy centre) is associated with unconditional love, joy and compassion, for ourselves and all other beings. I was asking:
Reality intersected with my theorising when just before I stepped in to teach my Saturday morning class, I was told about the terrorist attacks in Paris that had taken place the night before. An exploration of the heart and our compassion suddenly felt more vulnerable and challenging.
Tuning into our our hearts is hardest when there is pain and fear - distraction, lashing out and numbing seem far easier choices. But, if we refuse to experience our emotions they remain awaiting our attention, deep inside our bodies. If we feel powerless in the world, yoga reminds us to look inside ourselves first. If we want life to be more gentle, connected and loving, can we create more of that in ourselves?
Try heart opening postures
A soothing heart meditation (from Ana Forrest)
This simple technique gives soothing self-care to your heart. It’s ideal if you feel anxious or sad when you wake in the morning or before you go to sleep.
He who is rooted in oneness