Yoga is Medicine

A couple of days ago I found myself in a position where I was unable to process my emotions. I was visiting family and received news that left a sinking feeling in my gut. Unable to shake it, I let my brain take over. I was physically there – outside hiking in a beautiful setting (the Grand-freaking-Canyon) – but I may as well have been in another time zone. My head and my heart were bound in a tangle of emotions ranging from sorrow to anger. I’ve never been one to openly communicate my feelings. I look for ways to process them on my own – drawing, writing, walking, and yoga are some of my outlets. Typically, I’m able to separate myself from the pack and work through the layers, like untangling a knot. In this circumstance I was stuck in my head and I stayed there all day.

Still in a funk the next morning, I made time to peel away. I cleared a space in the guest room my husband and I were staying in, and began to move through familiar postures. The practice started slow and easy, but that didn't match up. I added complicated transitions, lots of core and shoulder work, and poses that challenged me both physically and mentally. I breathed hard and sweat through my clothes – it was more vigorous and physical than usual, but it was what I needed right then. My practice became a vehicle for moving past negative emotions that have absolutely nothing to do with me. When I finished my arms and legs felt like jelly. My brain was tired. I had finally worked through the thick of it and came out on the other side more myself. I left the room and reconnected with my family and to a world outside of my head.

One of the many reasons I’ve remained committed to my practice is that it provides a space to work though the brain stuff. Sometimes it’s thick and cloudy up there. My physical practice is one that opens space. Whether I’m moving and breathing and working through familiar shapes, or sitting patiently still in a Yin posture, through yoga I’m able to harmonize inner and outer worlds. Problems that seemed large and messy before yoga, often seem insignificant after. My grandpa was one of my biggest role models. He used to love the phrase, “Like water off a duck’s back”. He was always calm and un-phased, even when life was tough. He didn't let others get the best of him. That phrase has stuck with me. I’m sensitive to a fault, but when I practice yoga I’m reminded how easy it is to separate from emotion and simply let go. "Pain is inevitable; suffering is optional”. Life includes the good and bad; the sweet and bitter – what I do with it is totally up to me.

To be human means that we get to experience a range of emotions. The depths of what we’re capable of feeling are boundless. We will feel wronged and hurt by others. We will experience pain. What we do when we are in the thick of it is a choice. I can’t prescribe a sequence for anger or a meditation for sadness, but I can recommend that you meet yourself where you are. No one can take away your peace. Carve out some space, get quiet, and tune in. Yoga is medicine.


shannon stephens1 Comment