Gretchen's so great; her yin yoga class always compels me to my keyboard. Yin yoga, designed to work down into the layers--ligaments, tendons--always seems to do just that--to really get at the deep stuff.
Today she said this: Each body is unique, so each pose will be too. If you're able to feel a stretch and you're able to keep breathing and it feels pretty good, you're probably on the right path for you. And I thought, Okay! That about sums up my experience of this particular long-held pretzel pose.
But then I thought: Shit! When it comes to life off the mat, I haven't been feeling that great. In fact, I spent the last two days throwing up and bundling up against cold sweats. And I whimpered and felt generally emotionally miserable between trips to the bathroom for some vague, unidentifiable reason or conglomeration of reasons. Burning through some more stuff, I guess.
Day one of puking, before puking was a sure bet, I gave myself permission to skip class and I just did a headstand and a sun salutation. An inversion was maybe not my best move, in hindsight. Day two of puking and its aftermath, I wrapped myself in a scarf and a blanket and settled for a ten minute meditation on the mat. Good enough.
That's the stretch here: good enough. Enough. I hate this lesson, which is, I'm sure why I keep half-learning it over and over. My body is so wise. It does this to me all the time. When I need a break and won't give myself one, my body does it for me. When I want to transition with the grace and poise and perfection of a social work goddess from one job to another, my body instead gives me a much-needed day on the couch to let things settle in so I can feel the change instead of rushing past it. My body keeps me home from work and makes me spacey when I return so that I can come and go as human as I've always been.
But I'm still breathing. This uncomfortable shape I've taken, hunched over and imperfect, is not constricting my windpipe. I can manage, and I can even mange to laugh a little at myself.
The bigger confession, the harshest imperfection, is the ex-boyfriend (not THAT one!) contact I made in a moment of weakness. I'd blame a lack of electrolytes if I could, but it happened before that and then happened again. Okay, okay, it hasn't stopped happening. I've got dozens of speeches written in my rational mind, lined up and ready to go, about why this is a terrible idea. And yet I'm drawn to him like a magnet. A cold, lonely, wintery magnet possessed by the pushy ghost of the nostalgic holiday spirit.
Even here, at my most vulnerable, blushing and not daring to tell anyone who cares about me and would thus surely try to talk me out of this relapse, I can feel the stretch. I can still breathe, though my breath does have a tendency to become shallow when he's around, and to catch in my throat... It feels good. Yup. Sure does. And also awful.
But here's my theory, for today at least: maybe I'll take a break from punishing myself for my bad-boyfriend addiction. Maybe I'll take it easy on the self-hatred and instead just rest in this pose and keep breathing until the stretch goes deep enough. There are still some tight and tense spots deep, deep down. They might be the old scars that grip and hold tight to beliefs like, "you don't deserve more," or "you're too much!" Or maybe they're the wrapped-tight parts of me that don't feel ready yet to to loosen up and let go enough to try a different kind of relationship with enough longterm potential to threaten my ferocious singledom (and okay, my also ferocious control-freakiness). Either way, my Yan strength isn't working here, so I'll try the Yin path of stillness, acceptance, surrender.
And I think it's working. Here's why. The wise and beautiful Gretchen also said this tonight: If, after you unravel yourself from the deep and delicious twist, your spine feels a little fragile, that's normal. You're doing it right. You reached all the ligaments and tendons supporting your spine and made them malleable. Deep change is occurring in the deep layers. Be gentle with your spine, be gentle with yourself as you move through your practice.
So maybe I'm not perfect. Maybe I'm even repeating the most obvious patterns I have, with pretty full awareness of their probable negative outcome. But I can feel the stretch, and I'm still breathing, and when I let go and give my spine some extra love, it feels pretty damn good. Even the whimpering, even the shivering on the couch if you can believe it--my tender, fragile spine without its ramrod support. When I release and let the deep work happen without fear of snapping in half or having a stroke, when I send the sore spots a little bit of joy and sweetness even, it all can feel pretty damn good.