Trying to remove ingrained, perhaps even seemingly involuntary habits from our lives requires two things to happen: 1. Identify with the issue that’s facing you and then 2. Stop identifying with it.
Acknowledge that “Yes, this is here now.” And then over time realize, “But it doesn’t always have to be.”
This is how my yoga journey began. I drove myself to my doctor the night after things almost fell apart, and in the coming weeks I drove myself to a yoga class. I came to a point with my depression where a clear decision needed to be made: I had to see it, not just feel it.
What are you not seeing in your life? Rather, what are you trying to avoid and bury?
No doubt you’ve had a moment where you felt so misunderstood and so unheard — so alone — that no amount of reassurance or empathy from others made you feel like you belong. That’s why we bury our burdens.
Step 1: Identify
This changes completely when you meet another person who was/is going through the exact same thing as you.
That day is liberty and pressure taken off and solace. It is an underestimation to say that that day, your inner life changed.
I hope that you have had such a day. They don’t come in single digits solely, but many times over, every time you are willing to be vulnerable.
Be vulnerable and you will be surrounded by vulnerable people who will lift you up beyond measure.
When we share the most vulnerable parts of ourselves with someone who has been there, done that, still doing it, the stuck, hidden parts surface and recognize a confidant. This starts the feeling whole again process, but it doesn’t take us there completely. For that, we have to do step two.
Step 2: Stop identifying
Step two is the hardest of the two steps and the most time-consuming because sometimes it can feel like The Rest Of Our Lives. But focusing on being “over it already” is as effective as pouring fresh water into the ocean, expecting it to dilute.
Step two is to stop buying into the idea that you are destined to remain one way, and one way only, for as long as you are alive.
As a yogi or yogini, I’m sure you have stories to back up the idea that you are not your genetics. Becoming flexible, when you weren’t previously, is proof enough. Science is starting to catch up.
A meta-analysis published in JAMA Internal Medicine reports that daily meditation of 30 minutes a day relieves symptoms of depression by up to 20 percent and anxiety by about 10 percent. Wait for it, it gets better… lead researcher Dr. Madhav Goyal said, “This is fairly comparable to what other studies have found for antidepressant drugs.” (More about that study here)
Unknowingly, we are all conducting scientific experiments in our bodies every time we practice yoga and meditation.
Let go of the label
We consider our ingrained habits, so-called “worst” parts of ourselves and (dare I say?) “disorders” as labels that never rip off. It’s fairly easy to find others who share our frustrations and can commiserate with us, but sooner or later you’ve got to let the label go if you want to get beyond it.
All the while, these labels are often our ugliest burdens. And it’s not just depression, but anything that’s a struggle and causes pain: addiction, affliction, feeling trapped, disease, unease, poverty, self-esteem, self-worth.
Here is the bright side, brave warrior, on your two-step process to freedom:
What we consider our ugliest burdens are the things that bring us into communion with our greatest gifts.
Don’t let your unease turn down the volume on the valuable, beautiful, worthy heart that is You. The world, myself included, needs your love.
Try it: One-Legged King Pigeon Pose II, Eka Pada Rajakapotasana II
This is a two-step kind of pose, even though my instructions are a bit more thorough below.
In the full expression of this pose, both arms are grasping the lifted foot, elbows up to the ceiling with the head dropped back to the sole of the foot. If that version is in your practice, go for it. It’s not in mine (yet) but it will be.
Work with what you have now, then stop identifying with the idea that you can’t.
- From kneeling, step your right leg forward, knee under ankle. Inch your left knee backwards to come into a lunge with the left knee on the mat. You may choose to pad your left knee by folding your mat over or resting it on a blanket.
- Bring your right hand to the right thigh and lean the knee slightly forward to balance yourself. Bend your left leg in and reach around for the foot with your left hand. Bending the left elbow up to the ceiling, grasp the top of the foot with your fingertips pointing down. If this isn’t available to you, grasp the ankle or the inside of the foot.
- Draw your right shoulder back to realign the torso forward as best you can. Lift up from the sternum and draw the navel in to elongate the spine.
- Breathe evenly for six deep breaths , then slowly release the left leg. Drop both hands down to the mat and step the right foot to the back. Take a Cat/Cow before stepping the left leg forward for the other side.