Yoga makes me cry.
As in I have to stop to let my body release the heaves of breath as tears begin to build in my eyes.
Yoga used to make me frustrated. The instructors wanted me to twist in a way that didn’t make sense to my brain and they made it look it look super easy. They didn’t have the same spare tire around their stomach like I do. All of that to say 4 years ago yoga made me cuss, now it makes me cry.
So I stopped doing yoga. Not that I did it a whole bunch in the first place you know, because first frustrated cussing and then body sobbing crying.
About 30 days ago two things changed in my life and I think I have figured out why yoga makes me cry. First thing, thanks to the beauty of social media, I was introduced to this app called Headspace. It’s basically a meditation/mindfulness app. On like the second day of one of their Basic packs (which of course is where I started), they showed this engaging animated video of training your mind. Their simple explanation was that it is as easy as teaching ourselves to sit down and watch as they say, “the traffic of your mind” which is your thoughts and feelings. We naturally want to run into that traffic and stop it, control it somehow, causing more restlessness and anxiety. Their practice teaches you to sit back and listen to you, to view your thoughts and feelings with more perspective, thus allowing you more peace and calm.
I sat back and quieted the management of my mind and instead of being the boss I became the observer. What I found was a freeway full of people pleasing cars. Cars driven by ‘am I doing enough?’, ‘ Am I living according to the rules of everybody else?’,’ Am I parenting well enough? ‘Did I do enough yesterday?’ Sometimes a Jesus Semi Truck would scream through deafening the sounds of the other cars. Yet still it was a scream of desperation. There was no peace in the traffic of my mind, it demanded insecurity and approval of others including the Lord.
That stopped me in my tracks. I am naturally a people pleasing, people loving, slightly insecure person. Every personality test I have ever taken, all generally say that. Temperament, it’s a thing and I am okay with that. However temperament doesn’t define, it simple shows you so that you can be the best you. Although in the traffic of my mind there will always be people pleasing cars, they shouldn’t be the majority.
The second thing that happened was I hired a health coach. Her name is Sarah. Her brain is an encyclopedia of knowledge, she is a great cheerleader and she has your back. Like if I got in a fight, I think she wouldn’t care who did what she would just come out swinging on my behalf! Needless to say, if I could keep her in my pocket and take her with me everywhere I totally would. She’s is more friend than coach. We were talking one day about exercise and how my body responds. She suggested I try this method of meditating before I workout. She mentioned that some research has shown that people with significant trauma have to re-teach their brains how to respond to stress. For example, if I workout that stress is not a lion trying to eat me or someone trying to hurt. That is just working out stress. We decided I would do 10 minutes of meditation, calm my mind and calm by body before I do any workout. Unlike headspace this wasn’t a sit back and watch the traffic of your mind. This was more of a be still and become aware of your body, count your breaths, stay awake kind of thing. Here is how it went:
I set my timer and got positioned.
I pushed start, closed my eyes, and started to breathe.
Then I tried to start counting my breaths.
But then I couldn’t remember when I should be counting the breath. I wasn’t even sure I breathed the right way.
So I tried to start controlling my breathing.
Then I tried to stop myself from controlling my breathing because I couldn’t believe I was trying to be controlling.
Then I started to cry.
In these last almost three years of learning to be quiet and still as a family, I hadn’t yet learned to be still for myself. I hadn’t mastered listening to my inner voice, the inner dialogue of my mind, or practiced quiet. I have viewed myself as a well-rounded individual because I drive hard after emotional issues. If you read this blog you know that. I am not content with just okay. I want to be the best me. The healthiest me. Wildly enough, in the drive I skipped over being still. I think the survivalist in me wanted to work. Yoga years ago was work. It wasn’t something I used to connect with my personhood. It was a workout. It was something I did to achieve a check on my check list of “am I doing enough?”.
I am on week two of understanding this about me, of grieving that the traffic of my mind does not allow me peace but instead performance. I haven’t even begun to break down that whole controlling my breathing scenario that happened because I hate that word control. I hate how it’s been used in my life, I hate how it’s been used against women. I loathe it. That is another blog for another day. For today, I am slowly listening to my thoughts, becoming aware of them in moments that aren’t set apart. As I go the store, as I sit down to write, as I talk to Charles and Isaac. I practice listening to the traffic of my mind.
I did yoga yesterday. A simple 15 minute session of stretching, I cried. I didn’t stop this time though. I just let myself cry as I breathed into the stretch. I let myself be quiet in the tears, releasing whatever it is that my body needed to release. I imagined the Lord sitting next to me, just being.
I continue to do 10 minute meditations before my workouts. I still try to control my breathing and then I remind myself this isn’t about controlling my breath. It is about learning how I breathe.