Immersion, the path of a budding yogi

If you have been reading this blog aka the thought dump for any length of time or follow me on any of the social media channels, you probably figured out by now that I really like yoga. It wasn’t always that way and the truth is I don’t like yoga; I like how yoga makes me feel both in the moments I am practicing and more importantly after I leave the mat. In almost four years, I have gone from needing to carry a bottle of Bach’s Rescue Remedy with me at all times and knowing that at any minute I could fall prey to a panic attack so bad that the only recourse was a trip to the ER. Where after a slew of tests, the not so amused ER physician would come back to tell me that I wasn’t dying and send me on my way with some Ativan.

Yoga has brought me a sense of peace and mental well-being that even physician prescribed medications couldn’t bring. Therapy made me aware of my issues and taught me about my triggers but it seemed that the older I got, the list of triggers grew to the point that neither therapy nor medications were able to give me the tools to live the life that I wanted and desperately needed. Instead they created for me a world of dependency and left me with side effects I really didn’t want.

I am a reluctant yogi, I am a Black woman with Southern Baptist roots and a most decidedly Christian lean (liberal Christian, but still very Christian). I think it’s safe to say that you don’t see a lot of Christians in a yoga class and if you do, they often aren’t willing to divulge that tasty tidbit. Trust me, I get it. To admit you are a Christian especially in certain settings is often an invitation to have others remind you of how unenlightened you are…

So it is might be surprising that someone with such a lean not only ends up falling in love with yoga but starts off on a new path. This weekend was the first step in what I hope will eventually be the path to teaching yoga. To be blunt, I think we need nonstandard issue yoga teachers or rather teachers that don’t fit the current idea of what one thinks of when they think of a yoga teacher and as Black woman and a Christian with a 40 year old body that is decidedly fluffy, that would be me.

This weekend though was my first real step in the journey, one that I have been discussing with a few select friends and my own teacher since last year.  A moment I didn’t even think was possible since with my schedule and lack of funds, who was I to dream such a seemingly silly dream.  Hell, I couldn’t even bring myself to attempt a headstand until a few weeks ago!  Yet today, I finished the first 25 hours of my 100 hours of Immersion workshop. (After this first 100 hours, I will do another 100 hours focused on the process of teaching)

Catching the sun before set up in the studio
Catching the sun before set up in the studio

Let me just say it’s been a weekend. For starters Saturday and Sunday started at 7am, now for most folks being up and alert at that time of day isn’t a big deal but I am not most people. I am not a morning person, throw in the fact that there was to be no caffeine on the premises and you can understand why I was more than a little nervous. Me sans coffee is not a pretty sight but I threw caution to the wind and came in with a travel mug of coffee. Talk about feeling awkward, at 6:55am everyone else is sipping their herbal tea looking quite ethereal and here I am monitoring that travel mug like a dying person looking at the morphine drip praying it doesn’t run out too soon.

Twenty folks willingly giving up an entire weekend (and a bunch more in the future) including Friday night and bonding over a desire to go deeper in their personal practice is a beautiful thing though and let me tell you, regular classes don’t prepare you for such an experience.  It was an emotional, spiritual and very physical experience.  I got a little cocky, allowed my ego to get in the way today and I have the aching shoulder to go with it. The mat is life; get too high up on the horse and it knocks you down and makes you take stock. It was a good weekend though even with the vegan vittles, I am pretty sure I have enough gas in me to fuel a few cars.

A few of tasty vittles...they were good, just that some bacon would have been better.
A few of tasty vittles…they were good, just that some bacon would have been better.

 

There were a few awkward moments especially during the discussion on food choices and my confession to the group that I like bacon. Hey, I have walked the vegetarian path and I might even end up going back to it but at the moment, I strive for moderation. But I was also reminded that this path for me is not about fitting into a premade box but creating my own box if I so choose to go into any box at all.

Despite the uncomfortable moments and it has become clear that uncomfortable will be a part of this journey, I love it…I love it all. So I give thanks to my teachers and their teachers and all that made sure that these practices could be handed down. Now let me get that salve so I can get a little relief.

My teacher, her teachers include   Gurudev Yogi Amrit Desai and Sri Dharma Mittra
My teacher, her teachers include Gurudev Yogi Amrit Desai and Sri Dharma Mittra

I don’t have to do a damn thing and the truth is neither do you!

I have been practicing yoga now for over three years ago. I started off with yoga nidra as a way to relax and wean myself off the brown paper bag and Bach’s Rescue Remedy that I carried around to combat the ever present anxiety attacks. As I have shared before, coming from an Evangelical Christian background, I was pretty skeptical about yoga but learned quickly that maybe there was something to it. It actually took me some time to work into asanas (physical poses) since at that time I was dealing with a hernia and later hernia surgery recovery.

In the past year, I have gotten pretty serious about my personal practice. I prefer being in the studio but practice almost daily regardless of if I make it to the studio or not. Yoga is my drug of choice these days, it keeps me flexible and it probably keeps me sane. Yet yoga and the practice of learning to relax both my mind and spirit has taught me one thing…I don’t have to do a damn thing. I just have to be present in this moment. Let me repeat that, I don’t have to do a damn thing but just be and the truth is neither do you.

In the US which is where I live, we are fucking addicted to busy, consumed with what we must do, how we must be, frankly it is insanity! Day after day, I talk with people offline, online, wherever and we are all so stressed and consumed with our kids, partners, jobs, and whatever else to the point that if we were to be frank with ourselves, are we even enjoying this ride we call life? Sure, some of us get off on and even thrive on all this busy, but I suspect that many of us are doing it because we think we have to do it.

It’s taken the combination of yoga and the gift of getting older to realize more times than not that many times the pressures we face are pressures we put on ourselves. I thought about that this morning as I emptied my mind and let go of some residual tension that I had been hanging onto. I thought about it again this evening when I came home from work, grumpy and tired and pissed off about making dinner. No one said I had to make dinner; there is no law whatsoever that says BGIM must cook. Hell the man unit is a proficient cook and in that minute of intense frustration I decided I didn’t want to cook tonight, instead my partner made dinner. If he had been unavailable we would have figured it out. Worse case we would have eaten apples and Raisin Bran and it would have been fine.

Lately I find myself letting go of expectations in all areas of my life and telling others when I simply can’t and won’t do things and it’s liberating. I still have moments when I buy into other people’s scripts about what a wife, mother, worker, etc. is supposed to be and generally those are the moments I stop just being me and they pretty much all end in disaster. In many ways my new found willingness to just be has been liberating to those closest to me, I no longer get down on the floor and play with stuffies, Barbie or Lalaloopsy unless I want to. My daughter is now doing a lot more self-directed play which is a gift to all of us. My partner is feeling better that he can do more around the house, even my assistant is more confident and eager to take on more at work as I trust that if he shows up instead of me at a meeting, that it will all be fine.

I admit I wish I could scream it from the rooftops, but none of us have to do a damn thing but live and die. Those are the only things we are contractually obligated to on this journey called life. This journey is too short to waste on anything less than our personal best in whatever form that takes. So sit back and just be.

Superwoman lost her cape….

I should have known, I should have seen it coming especially since I knew I was well over due for the fall but in recent years as I have learned to manage the anxiety that I have struggled with since the age of 19 I got complacent and well that bitch hit me today like a ton of bricks. Depression, my nemesis and the companion to the chronic anxiety that I have lived with now for half my life has decided to rejoin the party and she is not welcomed.

This is the type of post where literally as I type it I wonder am I saying too much. Perhaps I am sharing too much of myself with people I don’t know then I remember a dear friend EH who I lost to suicide many years ago and remember that unspoken truths can become deadly. In EH’s case a happy, calm, helpful façade disguised deep pain that eventually came out when EH took his Chicago Police Dept. issued service revolver and ended his life. Yet the happy façade had cracks, cracks no one chose to see, not even someone in a helping profession who in the past has literally accessed whether or not someone needs mental health assistance.

In my journey with anxiety that later blossomed to include a side of depression, I have worked hard to stabilize myself, at times using medication and therapy, sometimes together and sometimes alone. I have learned my triggers and generally I avoid them at all cost. It is the one reason I have pretty much made the decision not to drive, driving triggers my anxiety, and once I get on the anxiety roller coaster it gets bad. Yes, it is a hard decision to make but my health and well-being rank a little higher than my ability to drive at this stage in my life. Learning to limit the triggers has served me well, throw in the yoga and meditation that I took up over two years ago and well I have been feeling like a brand new person. Sure I have a bad day here and there but nothing that downward dog and pranayama breathing can’t pull me through. I have been Wellbutrin free for years and haven’t even needed a bottle of Rescue Remedy, yeah it was good.

Things started to feel so good that I forgot, I forgot that when I don’t actively know my limits and accept them that I push too hard, too fast, hell I become Superwoman and I have been on a Superwoman high for a while now. Well I woke up this morning to learn my Superwoman cape had been repossessed by the Super Hero plant, leaving me all alone and on the floor in a fetal position. When I woke up this morning, I felt the shift in my bones, that old heaviness, the tightness, the rage and the watery eyes. I knew it when I lashed out at my husband for imagined wrongs and he knew it too, he has been with me too long not to know

Thankfully I am older and wiser and having been down this road before, I know what to do to get myself back on track. Changes… must make changes. For me that means despite the fact that I have been trying to limit how I extend myself I must be more adamant, louder and stand on the table and yell it if need be. It is no longer a matter of feeling bad, but I know if I don’t consistently make time for myself and my needs that stress after a while trips me off and then I am living in anxiety and depression land. I also know that if I can’t get myself back to where I was then I will once more need to submit to the pharmaceutical gods who make products that can rewire me back to the sweet spot.

The decision to not only write this but share it is hard yet for too many years I lived alone in that dark space wearing my happy façade but it took losing someone I considered my rock to learn that there is no shame in admitting our needs and even asking for help. Even Superwoman occasionally misplaces her cape, sometimes she is even puts away in the closet too!