Tag Archives: Sweat Neurosis

Things I Never Expected from Yoga – No.6…

Things I Never Expected from Yoga – No.6…

That the Heat would teach me about Accepting the Things you Can’t Control…

Early in my Bikram practice I was obsessed with the heat.  Constantly.

“OH MY GOD!  How hot is it?!” 

“Is the teacher going to open the door and let some air in???  Why aren’t they opening the door yet?!”

“@*#!  Is the teacher trying to kill us?!”

Generally, there would be a lot of internal Tourettes going on.  If my brain was one of those TV shows where the expletives all get blanked out, it would have been broadcasting one big, long, continuous ‘bleep’.  Even Chris Rock would be blushing.

And all this would usually be geared towards blaming the teacher for how hot the room was. Because surely it was their fault, right?  I never took into account that the heat in the studio could vary for all sorts of reasons, from the number of bodies in the room, to the weather outside, to how I was feeling on any given day, to yes, maybe even the heating system genuinely being temperamental once in a while.  Then, there was the rather obvious question – if I had a problem with the heat then why practice in it? I always came back, so I realised that my problem wasn’t the heat but my attitude towards it.

Fast forward a few years and I do feel very differently about the heat.  Hot Yoga at my yoga home is the basis of my practice, mixed with Astanga and Jivamukti when I can, so on average I tend to do about 5 hot classes a week at the moment and every day is different.

Now, if I’m in a particularly hot class, yes I do acknowledge it.  If someone comments on how hot it was, I’ll say, “Yeah, it was hot today”.  But I don’t have that internal Tourettes anymore.  Instead, I see the heat as a bit of a metaphor for accepting things I can’t change on and, especially off the mat.  That doesn’t mean I always manage it, but I try. In a particularly hot, humid class, I naturally sweat even more (if that were possible!), my ability to balance is usually off,  I might need to take child’s pose more often, be even more conscious of my breath…  A particularly hot, humid class certainly does present more challenges.  But it’s a reminder to me to be kinder to myself as I move through those challenges.  How apt that I would have a particularly challenging class last week to remind me of this, just as I’d been berating myself earlier that day over something that ultimately, I could not change or control.

It was one of those really tough classes, physically and emotionally.  (Ever had one of those classes where stuff comes up and you feel like you don’t really want to speak to anyone afterwards for fear that they’ll ask if you’re okay and you’ll burst into tears on the spot? Yep, one of those.)  But instead of trying to push those feelings down I decided to accept where I was and just sit with those feelings until they passed.  I’m so glad I did that.  Because my natural disposition is pretty positive I have a tendency to expect that I should be cheerful all of the time and feel guilty if I’m not, but that’s ridiculous.  It’s not real. 

There is nothing wrong with accepting how you feel.  That doesn’t mean wallowing in sadness if I feel sad, but I’ve finally learned that it’s healthier to acknowledge how you feel rather than fight against it, just as it is healthier to find a way to accept those things in your life that you truly cannot change than to resist and push and struggle.   I look back and realise that health issues I’ve had in the past were probably linked to me doing just that.  If you push those things down, I think they find a way to come out somehow in the end.  In my case, it’s been physically.

Yes, that sounds obvious but it’s taken me a long while to get this lesson.  And what a great lesson.  Better late than never.

 

More Anxious than an Anxious Thing

More Anxious than an Anxious Thing

I have been feeling a lot more anxious than usual lately.  It’s a combination of ‘stuff’, but I’m pretty certain this is mostly down to one specific thing:

In less than a week I leave the place I have worked for almost ten years. 

Yep. Hello Freelancing and Goodbye Regular Salary.  I know this is absolutely the right thing for me.  The timing could not be better.  It is something that I know I want.  I feel so much clearer about things than I ever have.  And yet…

I am Terrified. 

AND Excited.

From day to day the pendulum swings as to which of these two emotions I feel the most.  There are moments of euphoria then usually, at the least convenient of times, including during class, there are tears.  But one bonus of crying in a Hot Yoga class is I sweat so much that I guess no-one’s going to notice apart from me :)

I’m also at that certain point in my life when people wonder why I haven’t settled down with a husband and kids yet.  But strangely, I feel far younger and far happier now than I did ten or so years ago when I was always the first in and last out at the office and striving so, so hard to progress.  To be perfect.  I put so much of my identity and self-worth into what I did for a living to the point where I lost myself for a while, then couldn’t work out why I felt so miserable all the time. I became disillusioned and deeply cynical.  Not my natural state.

I am really grateful that I get to practise yoga.  For me it is a huge gift that I do not take for granted in the slightest.  I truly believe that this has helped to give me a better perspective.  At least now I notice if any old negative anxiety patterns are beginning to creep in (like mindless eating – “Where did that whole bag of almonds just go??) instead of blindly going into self-destruct mode.  I feel that through my practice I have gained awareness, enabling me to observe my behaviour, change it accordingly and be kinder to myself, even when I do slip up from time to time.  

I know this is a life-defining phase for me.  Not because of leaving my job or the age I happen to be when this set of circumstances has arisen, but because of how I feel about it.  It’s a gut-feeling and, to date, my gut has never been wrong. At every significant point in my life so far I have felt like this.  I’ve never known how to describe it without sounding all ‘woo-woo’ but I came across a post on zen habits (via @samdavidson) about ‘Joyfear’.  For me this sums up what I’ve been feeling so well.  Here Leo Babauta writes that every single defining moment of his life has been filled with Joyfear:

“Having only joy is great. Having only fear sucks. But having both … that’s life-defining.

Do not shy away from Joyfear. Seek it out. Recognize it when you happen upon it. Joyfear will change your life, and you’ll never forget the moment you find it.”

I know this is big change.  I am pretty sure it will delight me and test me and frighten the hell out of me.  I know I am probably going to have to ‘Woman Up’ in order to find the courage I feel I will need at times. But somehow, I think it will be okay. 

Bring on the Joyfear.

(Thanks to @zen_habits and @samdavidson for highlighting Leo Babauta’s ‘Joyfear’ post)

Chakra-ising the Asana with Stewart

Chakra-ising the Asana with Stewart

I think I’ve met a True Yogi.

At the weekend I had the great privilege of attending a workshop led by Stewart Gilchrist at my yoga home. During a two and a half hour class titled ‘Chakra-ise the Asana’  Stewart taught us about the chakras (our wheels or nerve centres of power) in relation to the asanas we ‘lay out’ (Stewart expressed that ‘lay out’ is the correct term, rather than ‘perform’).  He also told us about how it has now been scientifically proven that chakras do exist – it’s not the la-la hippy nonsense that many thought for a long time.

I’d arrived on the mat with some trepidation.  Knowing a little of Stewart’s reputation I already knew this would be no beginner’s class.   Then he actually tells us as much, but adds that anyone can do it as long as they listen, even his Scottish Granny.  With that, I am convinced Stewart’s Granny is a far better woman than me!  I exchange a look with my neighbour and realise I am not the only one feeling a bit fearful of what lies ahead…

“Yoga without devotion is just keep fit”, Stewart tells us.  This I believe.  When I first started yoga I just thought of it as exercise but I now know it is so much more.  For Stewart’s class, I dedicate my practice to someone I know whose Mum passed away earlier in the week.

Then we begin moving.  The pace is quick and then… it gets quicker!  Never before in a class have I been so aware of the importance of remembering to breathe!  During a seemingly endless sequence of vinyasas my triceps burn and I wonder if I’ll be able to go on.  Yet, somehow – thanks to my breath – I do.  As we continue to move through the dynamic practice there is so much information to take in as Stewart works through the chakra system.  I know I won’t remember everything, but if a fraction of it stays with me I’ll be happy.  It’s certainly fuelled my desire to learn more.

Even though the room is packed out, Stewart darts about making adjustments and miraculously it seems as though every single person in the room gets his attention.  Though some of the hands-on adjustments are quite strong, I really like this. I’ve learned this approach particularly works for me through the handful of Jivamukti classes I’ve taken part in so far.  I feel the hands-on adjustments very directly show rather than tell me where I am working towards in an asana.  And I’ve found that combined with verbal instruction really helps me to understand better.

We move onto some even more challenging asanas.  “If you decide you can’t do something, then sure enough you’ll find you can’t,” Stewart tells us. I know this has been an ongoing issue for me, as I’ve written about in previous posts.  Whenever I see a seemingly impossible posture in front of me, my immediate thought tends to be, “There is no way in hell…”  It’s a pertinent reminder that this is something I need to keep working on.  And I am reminded to accept where I am right now when Stewart adds, “You’re perfect.  Where you are is perfect for you.” 

Throughout, Stewart is funny, cheeky, warm and wise.  Our incredibly dynamic practice is balanced by his vast enthusiasm and encouragement.  As we continue, Stewart warns us not to over-extend in our asanas, “…that’s the ego.  Under-extending is your fear.”

Stewart later tells a story that speaks to my ‘sweat neurosis’.  It’s about some Americans practicing yoga in India who ask their teacher what they should do with their sweat.   It turns out the answer is to rub it into your skin (!): “It’s your Prana.  Your life force.”  Well, sweat is something I certainly have a lot of!

I am taken by surprise when we move onto the finishing sequence.  Could we really be nearing the end of the two and half hours already?  I find myself feeling a bit sad that the workshop is almost over – that was a shocker considering how I’d felt during all those vinyasas earlier on.

I float off into the sunny spring evening feeling uplifted and inspired and knowing that I definitely want to practice with Stewart again.  The friends I meet up with later look at me with a mix of awe and bemusement as I explain to them how I spent my afternoon…

The next day I get up for my Sunday morning class.  I start moving around my place to pack my gear and – Oh.  My. Goodness!!!  My hips, my glutes, my trapezius, my triceps… I could go on.  Yet, I was still smiling.  And it turns out that making the decision to still go to practice was the best thing I could have done for my body – all that soreness eased thanks to Leon’s Hot Flow class!

I am so grateful that Stewart came to Yogahaven to teach us.  And everyone else I’ve spoken to who was there had wonderful things to say about Stewart and his workshop too.  So, with any luck, Allie and Krystal will be able to persuade him to return on a regular basis, fingers crossed!