My yoga class today promised me a deep stretch. Why on earth does anyone need a deep stretch? For some reason I am completely drawn to treating my body like saltwater taffy, working it into longer and longer pieces. Is this compulsion normal? You can relax into a stretch or you can pull yourself into a stretch with your arms pulling and your scapula wrapping the outside of your back. You can guess of which I have done more.
I have a certain relationship with my hip flexors and my hamstrings. Some days the relationship is: I hate them and they must be beaten into submission. Well, that’s most days. I long to do splits and to sit in king-pigeon pose with my head resting on my foot, a big yogic smile stretching across my face as God showers sun beams down upon me. If I could just stretch more, if I could just stretch harder, I could…
I could what?
Unlock the hidden mysteries of my hips? I think actually Shakira is right, hips don’t lie. Well hers definitely don’t. They can “not lie” to you in just about any language too. But mine don’t lie in other ways. Mine seem to be holding 28 years of unclaimed emotions. Spending a yoga class “opening” my hips is just about the biggest tension reliever I can think of. But doing yoga certainly isn’t the only way to accomplish that. There are other obvious ways like…riding a horse? As my Psoas gets worked so does my stress and my emotional sensitivity. In fact all sorts of emotions can bubble up to the surface.
The result is: I am forced to deal. Deal with what exactly? The discomfort. I have to quite literally sit on my discomfort. I have to just sit there and be ok with it. Sit there and struggle with it. Sit there and sweat over it. Sit there and be pissed off about it. Sit there and forget about it. Asana is the physical practice. It is to “sit in the seat of the self”. And that seat isn’t always comfortable but I sit there. And at the very least I am being with myself, in an honest way.
I can stretch by pulling and I can stretch by just sitting. The activity of sitting into an uncomfortable pose is actually more intense than the activity of pulling and straining into a pose. The rest of my life seems to be a tender balance of being able to sit with the uncomfortable bits and being able to pull myself out of them.
So when do you sit and when do you pull? Sometimes we are ebbing and sometimes we are flowing. And other times we just want to grab a branch and pull ourselves out of the river for while, have a siesta on the shore, and get swept up a bit later.