The practice

I believe that we learn by practice. Whether it means to learn to dance by practicing dancing or to learn to live by practicing living, the principles are the same.

Martha Graham

A few years ago, I took up hot yoga.  Bikram yoga to be specific.  For the uninitiated, hot yoga is typically a ninety minute class, twenty-six poses, at a balmy one hundred and four degrees.

It’s the fifth circle of hell.

The first time you take a class, it is all about not throwing up.  They really discourage people from leaving the room once class starts.  First of all, you cannot maintain that delightful temperature if people are opening and closing the door all the time.  After all, the point is to stay, and release all of the toxins by sweating them out.

Also, they are sadists.

The first several classes I attended I spent the entire time arguing with myself- trying to negotiate my release from what felt like a hostage situation.

My least favorite pose was camel pose- a modified backbend in which you are on your knees and your hands are on your ankles- your head is tilted back and your back is arched. Every class, when it came time to do that pose, I would either burst into tears or be overcome with nausea. Every single time, in the middle of holding that pose, I would have to talk myself out of bolting for the door.

Ustrasana_-_Camel_PoseEventually I googled it and learned that it is an emotional release pose.  It is meant to open up the heart chakra.

It works- hence the sobbing- if you can stay still for it.

Every time I was on my way to class, I dreaded it.  I dutifully drank my coconut water and thought about how much it was going to suck.  I was always right in my assessment.  Every time after class, after I stayed through the pain and sweat and tears, I felt exhilarated and LIGHT.

See, people, I’m a runner.  Not like my friends Kate and Jen, who like, actually RUN. When no one is chasing them.

I know.  It defies understanding.

I run from discomfort.  I run from anger.  I run from conflict.  I run from pain.  I run from stillness.

When my Favorite and I have a disagreement, my instinct is to get the hell out of Dodge. When I feel too vulnerable, too exposed, I flee.  Part of that is having spent so many years feeling as though my emotions were too messy, and a terrible inconvenience.

It’s funny- I have people ask me all the time how I can lay myself bare about such personal things in my writing, and put it out there.  That’s actually really easy for me.  It’s in the room that I struggle.

I am slowly learning to stay still- learning to lean in.  To live with the uneasiness that comes from allowing myself to be seen for who I am, warts and all.  I’m learning to trust in my relationships, that they can withstand being tested by conflict and honesty, and realizing that if they can’t- that’s great information.

There is a reason that yoga is referred to as a practice.  Maybe we aren’t IN relationships, so much as we PRACTICE them.  Imperfectly, perpetually learning, and trying, and failing, and forgiving.

Now, when I’m in conflict or I’m anxious I still instinctively try to negotiate my way out of it, but I am getting better at being seen and making myself heard.  And practicing staying in the room.

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Oh, and yesterday I had an article up on Huffington Post.  So, just your typical Monday…

11 Comments on “The practice

  1. I read your article yesterday but didn’t know it was you! I loved it, especially the last point about staying true to your own vows and promises about the kind of person you want to be amidst the chaos of a marriage ending. This is something I am working on envisioning in my own life, so your article really came at the right time. Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I, too, took up yoga about a year ago. Not hot yoga, just regular yoga. The first time for me was all about not farting, honestly. Here, spread your legs as far apart as comfortable and now bend in half and touch your elbows to the floor. Gracious. I stayed against the back wall for quite a few classes.
    I am also prone to running. I’ve found that every time I stay, it gets a teensy bit easier. As in, it starts to feel like staying is the thing that makes sense, instead of fleeing. I’m still reading Women Food and God. She’s talking about inquiry as a way to get in touch with your body, which seems like it would be useful when the impulse to run/overeat hits. Have you had time to start that book yet?

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  3. Laura, your writing is so captivating….I am so glad that i found this site! Your every word touches me and your strength of character and conviction is uplifting.

    Like

  4. I can relate to so much of what you write about. Regarding my first ever yoga class….by the time I got to my car after class I was hysterically crying, which then turned into hysterical laughter. I cycled through crying and laughing as I circled around my neighborhood waiting for it to stop. It really unearthed me. What I didn’t realize then was that I was just getting to the tip of the iceberg of repressed emotions that were starting to surface. Yoga is a wonderful practice to help integrate and heal the mind, body and spirit. Keep on practicing!

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  5. Is it weird that this actually sounds wonderful to me? When I used to practice yoga the kriyas which focused on opening the heart chakra were the ones I loved the most. I have to try camel pose. Maybe it will help me to achieve the emotional release I need. Thanks for writing about this. Hugs.

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