The Bully Within
I started this post with the idea of doing a tongue-in-cheek exploration of how our minds run wild during practice, but as I looked back on what I had written, it struck me that my self-talk, even in my made up, light-hearted post, was almost entirely negative!
In padangusthasana I shamed myself for not having thought about bandhas at all during my sun salutations.
In trikonasana I was disappointed that I felt weak.
In marichyasana A I was envious of everyone who forward folds better that I do.
In bhujapidasana I questioned my readiness for second series because I struggled so much in this primary series pose.
In pasasana I fixated on my inability to get my heels down
By the time I got to kapotasana, I had convinced myself I was an imposter.
Is this really how I talk to myself? Why am I so mean? Why am I putting myself through hell?
It’s like I want so badly to be different that I try to bully myself into a person I think is more acceptable. I abuse myself because somewhere along the line I learned that’s how you make people change - you punish them. I use shame as a motivator for growth. Yeah, because that’s ever ended well.
I have it entirely backwards! How could anyone ever truly flourish like that? What if an artist treated their sculpture that way - using a chainsaw instead of a scalpel? It would shatter. No, they shape their creation gently and lovingly. As should we.
The good news is that this isn’t really news. I’ve known this about myself for quite some time. In fact, I’ve overcome a lot of the self-loathing that perpetuated these thought patterns. I’ve come a long way to a place of self-acceptance and self-care. Mostly, anyway. I still have my dark days.
But, the bad news is that I’ve yet to learn a new way to do things. I’m stuck in the same old habit of self-bullying. It is so ingrained that it’s automatic despite all the healing I’ve done. Deep down in the depths of my heart, I know my innate value. I’m a child of God, remember? :)
But even though I know better, my brain still goes into auto-pilot when I am challenged.
So, then, what to do? Should I let my thoughts be what they are, wait for my five breaths to be up, then jump back and move on? Then repeat that for months or years until either the quality of my thoughts changes or I’m so detached that they don't bother me anymore?
Or, should I jump deeper into my head and actively work to speak more positively to myself?
I do not know the answer, or if there even is an answer, but, one thing is for sure...
The physical practice of yoga is the perfect vehicle for this voyage of healing and discovery. I feel like it's impossible to hide from your darkness in the throws of asana practice. Eventually, through the sweat, the breath, and the focus, my defenses will crack. The light will get in. That’s what it’s designed to do.
Asana’s greatest gift is not a healthy, strong body. Not at all. For me, its most valuable offering is that it gets inside of me, grabs hold of what impedes my growth, and throws it in my face in a very tangible way. It's as though my struggles manifest themselves in my practice and I can deal with them head on - physically, mentally, and emotionally. It is truly a powerful vehicle for understanding who you are on the deepest level.
So as long as I take that first breath on my mat everyday, I’ll embark on the quest for peace and truth. I know that for sure, and I think that’s the only answer I need right now. Just get on the mat.
I can handle that.