The yoga punch

Mid-week I start to look forward to my yoga class. Sunday yoga is an hour and a half of mentally trying to figure out what my body is supposed to do and then letting go of that to allow my body to move. It’s a contradiction I enjoy.

It’s “me” time. It’s something I look forward to without expectation, value, judgement, or uncertainty. Sometimes it’s hard, of course, but if I stay within the four corners of my mat then I’m doing okay.

Cover of "Cat Yoga: Fitness and Flexibili...

Maybe this is a cat named Zen. Show off. 

Yoga is not like running. My yoga teacher said that once she figured out what she was trying to gain through running, she found the same in yoga. I’m not sure what it was – for her – but I know that yoga is balance for me. If running is about moving forward and making your body more efficient, yoga can be about undoing that focussed efficiency and learning to stand still.

I’ve been feeling really anxious lately. I waiver from feeling like I’m on red alert to wishing that there was a day I could pinpoint as a catastrophe. I often tell myself that after that one day passes I will calm down again. If I could pick a day, why wouldn’t I just pick a week ago and be done with this feeling instead?

I think my angst is the feeling of letting go. If I let go of some of these worries, will I be out of control? I mean, will I have no control over whatever I’ve decided is worrying me?

This week’s theme in yoga was the hips. A lot of stretches and poses that opened the hip, had the hip aligned in its socket, and letting go of gripping and not trying to muscle through on strength. The hips store a lot of emotions. Our instructor said that often people do these poses and then wonder why they are so angry after a yoga class. I got out of the class feeling shaky. I wondered if I would punch the next person I saw and then maybe offer to help take their groceries to their car.

Cat Yoga

“Downward cat” –  as a cat would do it. (Photo credit: elycefeliz)

Emotions can erupt in us without warning. There is not one particular thing or emotion I am feeling. It is not related to a specific day or cause. It is the stuff I pack away and don’t want to deal with, the crap I do better without.

My hips let me see a little of that scramble I’ve stored. It is there for me to acknowledge and accept, to move forward and through. I didn’t punch anyone after yoga (though I think I drive home faster than usual), nor did I extend anyone any specific kindness. I did accept that there is junk I keep hidden and it is exhausting.

I hope next week we work on something different.

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22 thoughts on “The yoga punch

  1. I’m sorry you’ve been feeling anxious lately. I hope it eases soon. I’ve always wanted to get more into yoga, although the only kind I’ve ever really tried is Bikram. There is one pose, camel I guess, that makes me feel weird and cry almost every time. It’s interesting to me how putting your body in a certain position can tap into and unleash those emotions. Glad you didn’t punch anyone after class!

    • Hi Rachelle,

      I’m working on the anxiety — work in progress. Yoga really helps when you can find the right fit. Sometimes we put our bodies into positions that activate different energy channels or stirs up emotions — kinda like watching a long-distance commercial when you’re pregnant and you start to cry. I calmed down after the yoga class, but I did have a bit of a fit in the car!

  2. This is one of the most powerful side-effects of yoga: the emotions. I have learned to embrace these ebbs and flows, because once we let them move through (with awareness, and not reaction haha), we are often left feeling more clear and strong then before 🙂 It’s easy to embrace the ‘good’ emotions that arise from yoga, but the rest… well they show us who we really are, and we don’t need to judge or criticize those parts of us, we all have them! I could write a book here, so I will stop now 😉 Lovely post, thank you for sharing!

    • Hi Jenni,
      You should have written this post for me! It’s so true that if we can just allow, not judge, and let pass whatever comes up we don’t have to be hung up on having things be a certain way (even ‘bad’ emotions are just emotions). I’m really enjoying my yoga time – even with whatever residual comes up with. More opportunities to just let go and move through.
      Thanks for your thoughts!

  3. I find yoga and kickboxing my personal counterbalance for physically, and in large part, mentally, regulating my emotions, moods, and anxieties. With kickboxing, I can go a hard hour against the bag, get everything that has pent up out of me, beat all of my negative everything into it and out of me until the point of collapse, if necessary. Yoga, on the other hand, is all about not thinking of what upsets me, of taking that time to focus on the asanas and the quiet loosening of things — physical and otherwise.

    Both can indeed provoke a very intense emotional response in me, and I know that even if I am surprised by that response or I don’t understand it, it’s so important for it to happen.

    I hope you find peace with the things that have you in such perpetual anxiety, and learn to let go to whatever degree is right for you.

    • Hi Ruby,
      I especially liked this comment “It’s so important for it to happen.” I think we learn to ‘stuff’ our emotions so often that they can fester and we lose track of what is important for us, or what matters. I also enjoy a good high-intensity workout to process some of my emotions. Being in the quiet and with the quiet brings around a slightly different response, which I also value. Letting go (for me) is about learning how to reframe how I look at things. Changing the context and seeing things from another angle is a slow process to being more at peace.
      Take good care!

  4. I do yoga once or twice a weak, not because I love it and not because it relaxes me (I’m not convinced it does), but because it’s so good for my flexibility and balance, two things we need to maintain as we age. I wish I was as “in tune” with the practice as others often are, but I see it as just another piece of the fitness puzzle. Sounds like you’re more in sync with all its benefits.

    • Hi Carrie,
      I think flexibility and balance are also very crucial — at any age! I think yoga is great because anyone can do it — to whatever degree they are willing and able, on whatever day. I’m glad you are seeing benefits for yourself and that you like what you are getting out of it. I like the spiritual aspects of it as it reminds me to stay “in” my body rather than letting my head spin.
      Om to you!
      Tania

  5. Tania, you make me want to do yoga again. I think it’s fascinating we store emotions in our body. My hips are sore all the time lately. What does this say about me? I might be afraid to stretch in a yoga class now.

    • Hi Amy,
      I wrote you a long reply and somehow deleted it. 😦
      I really believe that we store a lot of emotions in our bodies — bones, muscles, fibers, organs. Think of how good a massage can feel when you can release tension both physically and emotionally.
      Here is a bit of a thought on the symbolism of hips. Hip: “Carries the body in perfect balance. Major thrust in moving forward. Fear of going forward in major decisions. Nothing to move forward to.” Sit with that for a bit and see if anything resonates with you. Does it make you angry to read this? Do you feel like it’s a bit of an a-ha moment?
      I really like yoga because you can access it on so many levels. I find that it’s so good for me to see that it’s not a competition, and there is no finish line. Just me and my body and whatever we bring to the mat that day.
      Take good care,
      Tania

  6. Tania, I love the cat images. I don’t do yoga, but 34 years ago I did take a yoga class as an elective in college when I was living in San Francisco. I had a tough time doing the tree so I used to refer to it as timber. My yoga master instructor hated my guts and once lost all his zen and yelled at me in class. He said, “You’re so lacking in karma, you belong in a place like New York City!” There was a pause. The entire class was on the edge of their mats. I said, “That’s not a very karmatic thing to say.” That bastard gave me a C+ and screwed up my GPA that semester. But, I was still able to eventually transfer into NYU and live in this city where I do fit in very well. This metropolis that he considered the anti-zen. He also turned me off yoga for life.

    • It sounds like your SF yoga teacher lost his zen along the way somewhere. I also don’t think he understood the concept or definition of karma very well — given that he was just screwing up his own with his outburst. I love how you called the tree pose the timber. I will keep that in mind next time I do it and am feeling a little keeled over. I’m sure NY is full of all kinds of yogis. You just have to pick the right flavour.

  7. Maybe I need to find a good yoga class…and stick with it; lately I seem to be nothing but emotions and anxiety – the only exception is during my runs, when there is nothing else but me and my body and the ground under my feet and the wind in my hair. Sometimes I remember the first time I read “Jonathan Livingston Seagull” and wished I could just fly faster…and then I DO fly faster! Great post Tania!

    • Hi Nick,
      I also so enjoyed reading JLS. A good book to relate to in your running! I find yoga gives me the balance to look inward since I don’t grasp this the same way when running. It’s hard to do deep and slow breathing when you are trying to push out intervals or run faster. If it suits you, a yoga class will find you. Thanks for your comments.

  8. Pigeon pose gets me every time. EVERY. TIME. At first I thought i was getting a little tear eyed because I was in physical pain from holding the pose for so long with my tight hips, but then I realized that something more was going on. After we come out of the pose, I’m often both mentally and physically wiped out.

    • PinotNinja,
      I think that’s where yoga is the most powerful. We access places we’d never go (or find) on our own. There are days when we do certain poses and after class all I want to do is nap — other days I’m ready to clean the house top to bottom. Funny how our emotions are so interconnected with our physical body and our energy. Keep up that pigeon — you are moving through it each time you get in there.

  9. Still catching up on blog posts from chemo . . . I’m just now starting to get back into a regular yoga routine. It’s amazing to me how much better my body feels after one week of daily yoga. It’s like it settles in upon itself, and I breathe much easier. Now if I could only settle back into running as quickly . . .

    • I like yoga a lot. There is no finish line so it’s a very different mind set than running. I find it a wonderful complement to training. So glad to hear you are back in the mat! Good for taking care of you, again.

      • My goal for this year is nothing other than to build up my running base again, and do yoga most days. No races, just run whatever I feel like, at least 4 days a week. I think that’s a good place to start. Maybe next year I’ll feel like racing again. Or maybe not. 🙂

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