Smile, seriously, let the corners of your mouth rise because this is a beautiful thing.
A yoga practice that invokes any emotion is an opportunity to learn more about ourselves, to go deeper. Whether it be joy, sadness, anger on anything between that we experience on the mat, relish these moments.
I haven't held a sustained period of being pissed off, angry and judgmental in a yoga class for a really long time, by no means is this because yoga has made me impermeable to it, I just haven't had the opportunity to be really pushed and challenged physically in class for a little while.
Today I attended a Power Yoga class that really pushed my buttons. It's a class that is well known to be strong and challenging, I'd never been before so was looking forward to getting in there and experiencing it for myself.
I made the rookie error of having a coffee before practice, while this has been a previous ritual for me here in Bali, clearly it doesn't work for me anymore! Even a few hours afterwards I was still feeling the affects. I arrived nice and early, looking forward to some time to ground myself and meditate. I soon found this just wasn't going to happen, the energy in the room was erratic (we'd call it ragistic in yoga), dance music was playing and people were jumping around like jacks in boxes, perhaps they'd all had a coffee too!
I'd already been triggered, all the activity and noise around me was disturbing my planned peace.
The class began in Tadasana (mountain pose) followed by a few rounds of slow Sun Salutation A, a few rounds of slow Sun Salutation B, a forward fold and them bam....we were in it - my mind hit flip out mode!
Next up Bakasana (crane pose) -> Jump Back Vinyasa -> Jump though Navasana (boat pose) -> Jump Back Vinyasa -> Pincha Mayurasana (forearm balance) -> Vinyasa and repeat like 5 times!!!
Immediately my mind started freaking out, 'what's going on here', 'I'm not even warmed or opened up', 'can this really be happening, 'we haven't even spoken about a rest option'?
This was at the superficial level of my mind, what was really going on was much deeper. I was struggling.
Pincha Mayurasana has always been a pose I found challenging in the middle of a room in a class, it's not lack of ability/strength, it's lack of confidence/trust. I've practiced it a lot recently and started to get pretty comfortable but not in this seemingly crazy rushed way of practicing. I was frustrated, disappointed that it wasn't working for me today, so what happened next, human nature took hold, I was looking somewhere outside of myself to lay blame.
In a yoga class this is often silently directed towards the teacher (that's where my mind went today). In reality it's always our own stuff that's coming up when we feel provoked, whether it be on the mat or not. These feelings/emotions never have anything to do with anybody else, it's only our perception of what's taking place that causes the angst or stress, we can always choose to not associate with the negativity and choose a different emotion (although this takes a lot of work and awareness)!.
I like to think of our yoga mats as nothing but a large mirror that reflects back to us whatever is going on inside, this is why yoga has such a profound ability to initiate deep change, it shows us our patterns and behaviours and offers a safe environment to start making conscious changes.
The class went on to include more Pincha Mayurasana than I've ever experienced before. I think it took around 7 unsuccessful attempts for me to re-direct the craziness of my mind away from the teacher and back towards myself. It was at this point that I came to a more objective place, approaching with a little more self love and recognising that yes it probably was not working because I've been doing 3+ hours of yoga a day for the last 5 days, this was perhaps my bodies way of telling me that it's a little tired. I was also seeing that getting frustrated and continually trying to get into it was counter productive and wasn't getting me anywhere.
Further challenges kept coming and the class just felt like one big rollercoaster, moving from anger, to fun, to challenge and everything in between. I won't even go into where my mind went when we held hanumanasana (the full splits) for a seriously long time, it's one of my least favourite poses! The teacher did say the way to break through in that pose is to literally break down, I think that's the angle we were headed towards today.
While I spent a lot of the class in emotions of being frustrated, angry, tired and pissed off it's probably one of the best classes I've taken in a while! I loved the opportunity to again experience where my mind goes in times of stress, to learn a little bit more about myself. It was also really nice to reflect and see how yoga has given me the tools to let that shit go, by the time we got to savasana I was back in the yoga bliss bubble, grateful for the experience.
Not so long ago I recall having those negative emotions on a repeat loop, often they would extend for days and days at a time. I was seemingly incapable of letting stuff go, there were literally some emotions that I carried with me for years!
Perhaps for me the greatest gift of yoga has been the enhanced awareness, the ability to objectively look at the crazy stuff that goes on my head, and let the shit go that no longer serves me. It's also allowed me to be more discerning with what is, and isn't real.
I invite the challenge, those classes that invoke emotion, the ones that make me feel raw, vulnerable, pissed off, inadequate - these are the classes where the real magic happens. As the saying goes "if it doesn't challenge you it doesn't change you".
So what are you waiting for, find something that challenges you, go into the depth of your discomfort, allow yourself to be pissed off in class, to feel the emotion. Don't worry the teacher won't care if you are shooting daggers in their direction or quietly cursing them beneath your breath, they will be smiling on the inside because they know this work is where some of the greatest benefits of the practice can be found.
Mandy Habener (Dumas)