As last year started winding down, I started to think of yoga poses I'd like to find in 2014. My list grew so long, though, it began to feel a bit ridiculous. I decided instead to divide the poses into three themes because I found there were ideas that unified them.
My hips are tight, for instance, and so far have restricted the full expression of poses like tittibasana or bird of paradise. I'd love to straighten my legs in the poses, to find their gracefulness. My first yoga teacher once said we hold grief, anger, and big, unresolved emotions in our hips. I think there's something to the idea. For years, I coped with great sadness by ignoring or numbing it. I started down a different path several years ago when I realized I needed to feel in order to live, even if it meant feeling like shit.
So, this year, I intend to focus great energy on hip openers and especially on shedding old grievances that have done nothing but poison my outlook and ability to trust. At a New Year's Day yoga class, we spent what felt like 10 minutes in resting half pigeon and the entire time, I imagined waves rolling over my hips, washing away the accumulated bitterness and grief, the long years of despair.
This past year, I've found great joy in my yoga practice as I met adventurous, athletic teachers whose practices lean heavily on arm balances and inversions. Until now, I trained with teachers who stuck to the basic poses and while those poses are beautiful and take lifetimes to master, there's freedom and fun going upside down. I think I crave that playfulness because so much of my life as a mother of four can be monotonous, even rigid. "Do your homework now. Please put your plates in the dishwasher. Clean your room. Did you brush your teeth?"
I get so tired of hearing myself talk sometimes, so bored, that I live for the moments in class when we fly. I find transcendence in floating. More floating and flying in 2014. Think the Ashtanga lift up, jump back to chaturanga, tittibasana press to handstand, handstand to koundinyasana, wild poses like that.
Finally, I don't want to be stymied by fear any longer, particularly the fear of public speaking or even just speaking my mind. A lot changed for me when I turned 40 a couple years ago. For whatever reason, I felt a switch flip to "I don't give a shit what anyone thinks of me." It was invigorating and liberating all at once. I just realized we're all doing our best to get along and more power to your efforts, more power to mine. Let's rock it together.
But I still felt bound by some fears, enough that it seemed absurd to even consider yoga teacher training. For one, I couldn't imagine standing in front of people and finding words once my mouth opened. For two, who the hell was I to think I knew enough to teach?
I overcame those doubts, though, and now it's time to overcome the remaining ones. I want to open my heart in 2014 and act bravely, boldly. With big love. So, all those back bending poses that I've been so afraid of, it's time to finally take them on. That's what I told myself at the start of the year, not realizing that our first weekend back to teacher training in 2014 involved a five-hour backbend clinic.
I felt excited, but anxious the night before, full of fears and not at all brave. But I went to class resolved to be open to the experience. We spent the morning and afternoon doing sphinx, cobra, locust, bow, camel and dancer. I felt strong and, after, so energized that I came home and practiced more.
The next morning, though, I woke up with an entirely different attitude. I drove home from the grocery store, stopped at a light and thought, "Whoa, this is some crazy intense sadness." I've basically been walking around like I'm high the past few months, so to have dropped to such a depth was a total surprise. The weather was cold and rainy, and the kids and Kent had just gone back to school and work after the holiday break. I thought I was just lonely, but it seemed like more, so I Googled backbends and emotions, and turned up a 2012 post by Kino MacGregor called the "The Emotional Journey of Backbending."
Of particular note:
"One of the deepest lessons in the yoga practice is about bringing the energy up the spine and cleansing the nervous system," she wrote. "Backbends thrust your full life force up through this central channel and burn through blockages along the way. When one of these blockages gets triggered it really does not matter whether you are doing a deep backbend or a beginner backbend because the emotional state that gets triggered is really of paramount importance."
I emailed Kent to tell him about the crushing sadness and the fascinating - potential - link to the backbends the day before. He asked me to focus on happy memories. But no, I said. I want to dredge up this crap. I want to sit with it instead of stuffing it down. "I want to be free of all the past shit," I wrote.
And so, welcome 2014.