Over the past few months I’ve not been feeling ‘myself’; I’ve been really struggling with some things that first appeared as physical symptoms. Underneath these symptoms lay, and still lies, deeper rooted issues. Our bodies tell stories and every time we deal with, or more likely the times when we don’t deal with difficult happenings, they are nailed into our bodies somewhere. This is where certain aches and pains can come up and it’s when we work through those niggles that we can realise what truly lies beneath.
Yoga is a practice that helps us to connect to ourselves instead of continually looking outward. The connection to our own breath brings a heightened sense of awareness within and is the doorway to allowing us to explore what is actually going on inside.
During this recent period I have introduced a new yoga style into my practice: yoga massage. I think that this is the most powerful way to really delve into your own body, unveiling a somewhat hidden world. My wonderful, inspiring teacher here in Byron takes a class of students through different areas of the body with the use of two massage balls in order to work through and soften tightness. It’s certainly like no other yoga and although it may sound peaceful and relaxing, the truth is that it’s painful and fairly shocking. I hear many gasps and painful cries from both myself and those around me. It’s like learning to give ourselves a pressure point, deep tissue massage and continuing to purposefully give ourselves these intense sensations proves to be difficult. Throughout the practice we work through tension that we hold in our bodies, and this isn’t restricted to our back, we will use the balls on our hips, glutes, shoulders, tummies and even our jaw lines; often we can be so tight in these areas without even knowing; through fear, anxiety, grief and other strong emotions, our muscles and jaws have clenched to keep things in and not let it interfere with our day to day lives because it’s too difficult to face. By working massaging into these places, we help them to soften and are encouraged to think of the ball as a familiar friend, as opposed to this foreign object jabbing us in our sides. At a certain point, after the initial gasps of horror in places we had no idea were so tense, this painful practice becomes delicious as we surrender to our places of suffering.
Nonetheless, yoga, and particularly yoga massage, brings up so much emotion and this can be very overwhelming. I’m afraid to say that this post isn’t going to provide the answers for how to deal with it as I’m currently struggling very much myself at the moment. However, I wanted to share a few ideas that I feel seem to help.
1. Turn your attention away from sharing outward to help connect inward.
Three months ago I deactivated my Facebook account with the intention of taking a month’s break, however after taking myself off that huge jumble of information and judgement I’ve not looked back. For me, Facebook was not a positive influence in my life and I’ve been much better off without it. I know it seems scary to do something that’s outside of the norm but this social phenomenon is not all it’s cracked up to be and I think that it has really detrimental affects on peoples’ mental health and wellbeing, not to mention social skills. Taking a break from any and all forms of social media can be really useful. Before formulating messages to put out to mass numbers, meditate on what radiates inwards. The way to get to know yourself better is to guide your focus within.
2. Don’t be too hard on yourself, take things one step at a time.
As I said, yoga can be overwhelming in that it can bring up so many issues, something you may have had no idea about the severity of. Your body may be holding onto things that your mind or your heart has tried to shield you from. And there’s good reason for this! Therefore, don’t presume that once you’ve identified a place of tension that you will instantly be able to ease it. The tension is likely to have been built up over a period of time and will take time to work through. Also, there are probably many places in your body that hold dis-ease. Allow yourself to work through one at a time and even take time off working through the pain to revel in the other joyous, light places that also lie throughout each of our bodies. Be kind and ease yourself into your troubles, allowing them to slowly be revealed, understood and accepted before we start to work through them and help ourselves to ultimately feel better.
3. Think how far you have come and congratulate yourself for that.
It’s easy to forget the journey we’ve already been on to get to where we are today. Often we can get caught up in the quest to become better but again this is a hard approach and we should be much kinder to ourselves. For example, congratulate yourself for allowing yoga to become part of your life as opposed to feeling like you should be doing more; congratulate yourself for sitting down to meditate as oppose to beating yourself up for not being able to mediate for longer; or congratulate yourself for being able to spend time alone and reflect on your life and who you are, this is a great accomplishment in itself and it’s something many people forget to do.
As I’ve mentioned, I am no expert in overcoming the difficulties that lie within our bodies, I am a real novice who is trying. These points have helped me yet I still need to remind myself of them all the time. I have realised recently that I am in fact very hard on myself and one thing I can say for sure is that this is not the way to deal with our vulnerabilities, it only makes them more tender and scared to show themselves, inhibiting our progression. I hope this post can help someone or at least provide some comfort knowing that you’re not the only one who is struggling. Good luck and remember to enjoy the journey!