Navigating the Emotional Journey in an Imperfect World
By Stephanie Rehor
I am often filled with gratitude because I get to practice yoga. I don’t know where I’d be if it wasn't for my practice. As grateful I am, on some days I question the purpose of yoga in my life. The reality is, despite my yoga practice, I struggle and have outbursts. Afterwards, I get frustrated and guilty that I reacted adversely. I have to constantly remind myself that being a yogi doesn’t mean i’m immune to my own suffering. This human journey i’m on is emotional and painful no matter how many hours I put in on the mat. I often hear my students describe to me a similar experience once they leave the yoga studio. Suddenly, they are thrown back into the real world where everything is not so namaste. All this peace that we’ve accumulated during class seems to quickly fade away the minute someone cuts us off as we are leaving the parking lot. We then feel confused and frustrated that everything seems to be the same as before despite the illusion that yoga would cure us of our emotions and consequently, our humanness. The fact is, we can’t stop challenging situations from coming on to our path and to react is our nature. The good news? We can integrate what we learn to navigate life in a way that will transform our pain. So how do we do this? First, we have to be aware of our weather report and actively participate in self-study. As we get to know ourselves we then become more mindful in our problem solving abilities.
In order to connect with our inner experience, we need to create space to be with ourselves. That means carving out time to be alone and developing a mindfulness practice everyday. Once we start developing a habit of checking in, we must go deeper and start understanding ourselves from the core of our being. This could mean getting in to see a therapist or spiritual advisor and definitely starting a journal and daily meditation practice. Getting to know ourselves is important because we can start to get at what makes us tick, what happened in the past that shaped how we see the world, what wounds are still healing, what makes us feel alive, what walls we put up to protect ourselves, and an endless number of discoveries. Each person has more depth to them then our minds can even fathom. Our unique paths are worth looking into. When we know ourselves well we can cultivate compassion and love ourselves for who we are. We then start to look at our experiences as much more colorful and use challenging situations as opportunities to learn and grow. Tapping into our inner experience is important, but in addition, we also must study spiritual text.
Studying spiritual text and reading self-help books can be seen as a road map to our healing. It will serve us in getting some direction towards living a conscious life and we can come back to these words again and again. There are endless amounts of books, articles, and scriptures we can read. When all else fails go back to the Yoga principles, the Yamas and Niyamas, and the Yoga Sutras. In addition to self-study and reading spiritual scripture, it’s important learn how to express ourselves. Expression is the key to managing our emotions properly.
In this context, we are not learning to express to others, although that is an important piece as well, but instead how to express to ourselves. The human experience allows us to feel a wide range of emotions. The word emotion comes from the latin word ‘emovere’ which translates to ‘in motion’. This means our emotions pass through us. When they get stuck this can cause major issues in our lives and how we deal with the world. The tendency to compartmentalize and just blow through our healing is tempting in this society of go, go, go. One of the most important revelations we make as yogis is that we are not our emotions, but instead our emotions are temporary visitors in our bodies. They are not enemies but instead, great messengers. They are the messengers of the emotional body just like pain is the messenger of the physical body. They are letting us know that something is wrong and showing us where we need to heal. By failing to process emotion we are not listening to the message that is coming through. Yoga will never take away our emotions, and for good reason! It’s all about learning how to sit with them and express them in healthy ways. That could be journaling, talking it out, or any kind of creative outlet. After we commit to our introspection, start studying spiritual texts, and learn to express emotion in healthy and productive ways, then we take it to the mat!
It’s important in yoga to practice in the way we want to live our lives. For example, are we gentle and compassionate when we fall out of a pose or do we beat ourselves up? If we let it, yoga can act as a sort of magnifying glass into what is going on within us. The transformative part is when we observe and adjust. So that frustration we feel when we fall out of a pose can show us that we are being too hard on ourselves. As we learn to alternatively laugh and shake it off then maybe we will be able to do the same outside of yoga. When we leave the studio its is up to us to use what we learned in class, no matter what life throws at us. Our yoga practice can help us but we have to put in the work. After that, there is only one last piece of the puzzle.
So now we are getting to know ourselves, we are reading spiritual texts, we are expressing, and we are practicing yoga in a meaningful way. What’s next is the most important part of navigating our emotional human experience - be ok with the mess. Know that this journey is non-linear and life-long. Things often times don’t go as smooth as we would like them to and failure is inevitable. Being human is imperfect in nature and we have to allow space for ourselves to mess up. We have to stop putting so much pressure on ourselves to be perfect all the time. We are all doing the best we can. Allow life to unfold in the way it was meant to, messiness and all. There is freedom in being willing to accept our faults and human error. In conclusion, practicing yoga will never be able to rid us of emotional pain, but if we do the work both on and off the mat, it can help us transmute this pain so we are able to live in a meaningful and mindful way.
Thursday, Level 1 @1:00pm (class canceled July 19 & 26 for a special event)
Sunday, Gentle Basics @12:30pm