I attended my tenth yin yoga class this morning. The ninety-minute class consists of a series of long-held passive floor poses that mainly work the lower part of the body…the hips, pelvis, inner thighs, lower spine. The poses are held anywhere from 1-3 minutes, stretching connective tissue, while stimulating and removing blockages in the myofascial meridians in the body. That’s the theory.
I arrive at 10:30 Saturday morning. The room fills quickly; it’s a popular class. We unroll our mats, grab blocks, bolsters and blankets from the closet. Our soft-spoken teacher M rings a gong and we chant OM in unison. M begins by giving instructions for the Pigeon Pose. We start on hands and knees, then draw our left knee up, tuck foot under right hip, and ease down until right leg is stretched out behind us, left hip lowered to the ground. The instructions are so complicated I sneak a look at my neighbor to see how it’s done, feeling very much like I’m cheating on a high school chemistry test.
The posture is stretching my psoas muscle deep in my hip. Hello psoas. I didn’t know you were so excruciatingly tight. We hold this pose for a small eternity, my psoas muscle, my sciatica nerve telegraphing extreme discomfort. I am in pain.
M says: no pushing, no constricting, no controlling or holding. Feel the fascia around your muscles unsticking. Let go. You don’t need to feel comfortable in order to feel at ease.
I breathe deeper, feeling how tight these muscles are, how painful it is to let go. What am I holding on to, I wonder. What am I trying to control?
I’m trying to control the future. I’m holding on to the belief that I’m in control.
Slowly we come back to hands and knees position, move to downward dog, and shake out our left leg. Then repeat the process on our right side. Another set of muscles so tight I gasp.
Imagine you are falling, M says. Deep, dark falling into the stillness, the silence. Letting go of comparisons, of pushing for perfection.
I exhale and feel something open and stretch. I am falling into darkness where I meet my demons of shame, perfectionism and comparisons. Endless comparisons to other bodies that are thinner, younger, more flexible. Exhale. The endless pushing for perfection. Is it possible I’m good enough just as I am?
We slowly unwind, breathe. M leads us through 90 minutes of these poses that stretch and challenge me. She asks us to sink deeper, to show mercy for our tight spots, to fall into the deep dark where we meet our edge and no further. How many times, I wonder, have I pushed on beyond this point, harder, stronger, longer, when what I craved was slower, softer, deeper, darker, falling into compassion for myself, for all of us, forgiving my failures of kindness.
We end by lying on our backs in corpse pose. There is more space in my body. I’m breathing awareness into the insidious shame that isolates me and keeps me from expressing how I feel, from risking my vulnerability. Breathing into a willingness to accept the changes that are happening in my body as I age. Meeting myself at my edge, where I’m good enough. More than good enough. Whole.
So this is what I am thinking, lying there like a corpse: Corporate culture counts on us demonizing ourselves, and violently shoves down our throats the lie of our inadequacies. And by swallowing these lies, we feed those who prosper from them, and starve ourselves.
And this is what I want to say: Don’t let anyone pillage and plunder your life. Don’t let the demons snuff out your light. Stop looking at your body as if it were made up of separate parts…I like my boobs but hate my knees. Stop looking in the mirror. Get off the scale. Quit looking for flaws.
Don’t miss it. Your vitality, your beauty, your kindness. The way your body moves dances makes love makes soup tends the garden. Don’t miss the magic. Be good to yourself. Stop looking for your reflection in someone else’s eyes. Stop waiting to be loved. Love yourself madly, with all the love you’re saving for another. This is the moment to be generous with our love.