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When Yoga is Like the Inside-Out Understanding of Life

I found a good yoga teacher here in mid-coast Maine. Her name is Denyse Robinson and I attend her Saturday class at the High Mountain Hall in Camden – a beautiful wooden barn with a large yoga space upstairs, with big windows looking out at the Camden mountains.

In the last class, Denyse said, ‘As we go through class today, notice if there’s an areas of the practice that is hard for you. If there is, imagine a door opening in your mind that allows you to experience that area differently.’ One of the things I appreciate about yoga is how it allows you to bring awareness to places of tension in your body where you may have had no previous awareness. After she said that, instead of shying away from all the places where I hold tension in my body, I was in some instances able to bring my awareness there, acknowledge the tension, and, following her suggestion, look t o flip a switch in my mind that would allow me to experience it differently. The tension released, at least to some degree, when I did that.

I notice the parallel between this and how the inside-out nature of life awakens us to areas of our psyches that we are in the habit of tuning out. Last week I began coaching a new client, Clara. Clara is quite successful at managing a division of a manufacturing company. She enjoys her work and finds it quite fulfilling; she loves the human interaction and being efficient and effective at what she does. But now that her kids are growing up, she’s noticing that her personal life feels pretty empty to her.

Clara’s been divorced for about 10 years. Describing her personal life, she said she never really cared much about having a partner; when it came to her marriage, she could take it or leave it. But when we explored it, this didn’t actually prove to be the case. Clara had tried hard to make her marriage work. When it failed, she had told herself she didn’t care about having a partner, and came to believe that that story was actually true. She was uncomfortable with the feelings of failure that came with the loss of her marriage, so she convinced herself that she didn’t care. Once she was able to locate those feelings, and realize that they were coming from her own thoughts, not from anything ‘real’ or outside her, the thoughts cleared and so did those old feelings that she had been carrying around, just below the surface of her awareness, for so many years. Even though she hadn’t been experiencing them consciously, they had been affecting her. The story she’d made up about herself – about not caring whether she had a partner or not – was untrue, and had been affecting her choices and behavior ever since.

We all have tension in our psyches that we’ve tuned out. Those are often the places that, once we realize them and where they’re coming from, yield the most fruit in our lives. People talk about ‘teaching what we need to learn’ – those areas of unawareness often turn into areas of our greatest awareness and sometimes hold the greatest gifts. Something for all of us to reflect on!

With love, Annika

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