Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Yoga Pain Playground


Situations in and around yoga can provide helpful learning points. It's not always just the practice, but also in the teaching and learning about yoga there can be opportunities for self-acceptance and emotional growth.

I was assisting in a therapeutic yoga class when the quick hand movement of a teacher caused a dense wooden brick to fall on my right big toe. When it happened I said, "Ouch!" Then I quickly covered up with: "I'm okay." I wanted to free up the moment so that we could get on with the session. But I was distracted by the emotional sense that I was hiding my hurt. The yoga teacher continued the instruction, fulfilling expectations.

My toe was fine, but my emotions were out of kilter! I wondered how I could balance myself without crying all over the student. So before the teacher left I looked into his eyes and said, "That hurt my toe."

And he said,"I could see that: I'm sorry."

Somehow this admission that I had been hurt, and that I had been heard and acknowledged, helped me to go forward with clarity.

When I was looking at the bottled up feelings, and feeling overwhelmed by them, it looked like feelings I had had as a kid--and totally out of proportion with what had happened in yoga on that day. This event brought up for me the time from the ages of about seven to eleven when there was someone in my life who had administered sudden painful punishments in an effort to control my behavior. Of course, I did not wish to be controlled in this crude and brutal way and I often didn't understand, and couldn't predict when these strikes were coming. So I learned to deny my pain in an effort to keep my sanity.

To keep a level head in situations where this person who was bigger than me was unleashing their anger without restraint, I learned to deny the pain. I now see that it hurt me so much, and that my truth--that I had been hurt--was important.

So when that inner pain came up in the yoga scenario described above, I was able to clear it by being truthful. And everything got lighter after that. Small interactions can have big healing effects.

4 comments:

Eco Yogini said...

what a moving post Brooks. I've never thought about my reactions to anger in this way that you have. I'll have to think about this some more.

thank you for sharing :)

Michelle said...

I started to respond to your post, and it ended up being its own post.

http://athayoganusasanam.blogspot.com/2009/07/unbearable-lightness-of-yoga.html

Thanks for speaking your truth, and reminding me of mine!

svasti said...

I have to admit, when I first read this post, I thought - hey, maybe Brooks is over-reacting just a little here.

But then I thought about it and realised you weren't.

I mean, if you've got even a kernel of resentment and hold onto that, it grows. And its posion, that infects how you deal with that person moving forward.

I'm glad that the teacher was honest and in the moment with you in response to your desire to clear the air.

If only we could all do that each time we feel hurt, and have the other person respond so honestly and respectfully, perhaps a lot of pain would be nipped in the bud!

roseanne said...

This is a powerful and brave post. Thank you so much for sharing.