I have a brain that is custom-built for non-stop pondering. Come to think of it, “pondering” seems like too gentle a word for what goes on in my mind. It’s more like a round trip of planning, doubting, freaking out, worrying, appreciating for a moment, and then, bam, worrying, planning, and around and around it goes. I know that basic human-ing includes so much of this for all of us and some people have recommendations on how to ‘calm the farm’ and one of these is to do yoga.
Apparently yoga brings us back into the present moment; helps us to come back into our bodies and carries with it a sense of calm.
If this is so, then why the fuck, when I go to yoga class, do I start to freak out more and despite my tendency to people please have I walked, even stomped, out of yoga class on more than one occasion with nary a good excuse in sight?
I went a couple of times with my dad so maybe it makes sense that I cried; he is 40 years older and can touch his toes while I was barely touching my knees. It felt quite humiliating. Once again in a class in Jakarta; I couldn’t keep up with the teacher, I was cursing her name. How dare she go so quickly; didn’t I put my hand up at the start of the class to let her know I was a beginner? Hello, victim here, don’t ask too much of me. I stumbled across the other people in class in my hurry to get out, some of who, in relaxed Indonesian-participating-in-organised-sport-fashion, were happily not following her moves and had stopped to check their phones mid-class, totally guilt free. Wait. What? Why were they so calm whereas I was losing my shizel?
Was I then suffering because I was comparing myself to others? Was I missing the point of yoga to come to the self, by feeling inadequate in comparison?
I tried out having a private class in my house. The teacher came and I thought I was better primed. I was more flexible than ever as I had been doing daily stretches during quarantine so I could touch my toes. I had even told the teacher that as a person who feels a lot of anxiety, I just need it to be easy so I wouldn’t go into panic mode. She seemed to understand. So off we went, deep breathing, moving slowly, and I felt myself relaxing a bit, but then, bam, downward dogs by the dozen, weird pushups that weren’t part of my mini-routine, a billion standing poses and my mind was on fire with the usual : I can’t do this, this is way too hard, this woman is fucked up, why is she laughing at me, for fuck’s sake, I hate yoga, I hate this, my body is screwed, there is no use, why is the time standing still? Why, why, why did I think this was a good idea?
The voice in my head was amplified back to the freaked out level, and every cell in my body felt activated with the impossibility of the task. Kind of exactly the opposite of what yoga is supposed to bring to my life.
Why, oh, why, was something as seemingly simple as stretching my one precious body, triggering the fuck out of me?
It turns out that, as humans we try to hide or repress things that we find hard to cope with, even positive things about ourselves which we can’t accept, but all of those things we repress show up in the people around us. That means that people, or anything that triggers us, become our mirrors. So what do my “yoga tears” have to teach me?
On the surface it could be possible that yoga makes me feel inadequate through comparing myself to others. I mean, I am a good student of the system; I know what is valued in being a woman according to the major systems which teach us. I have spent many fruitless years with my highest goal to be one of those people who wear yoga pants all day with a swinging ponytail, a green smoothie tucked under my arm and maybe a Goop cookbook wedged in my bag. It’s a fantasy look; carefree, present, natural sheen of skin, no muffin top. I guess, you know, just like Gwenyth. Also a look which has no bearing on my lifestyle at all.
So am I triggered because I am not Gwenyth or is it something else?
In order to really get to the root of our triggers we have to ask ourselves: What is it here to show you? What’s the learning here for you? Outside of my social conditioning of what it means to be a valuable woman, what lies beyond?
Many of our triggers are based on covering up the decisions we made about ourselves when we were younger than 7 about who we are. What I made up when I was that age is that I am not worthy, I don’t belong, I am not capable; these are the ideas that helped me to make sense of a world that I didn’t understand. A world where your parents get divorced or you are left alone by one of your parents, or you are teased, or abused.
It’s a confusing part of being human that the decisions we make at this age are the ones that carry us through our lives, shrinking us in many ways by triggering us when we are challenged, and we expend so much of our energy trying to hide these so-called truths about ourselves from others. We can’t let them know! We must cover up by overcompensating; giving everything away, hiding under expensive clothes or shrunken bodies, or performance based friendships.
So if this is true, then the reason that I am triggered by yoga class is an opportunity for me to learn about something about myself that I have been expending energy trying to hide. A feeling of inadequacy or “not good enough”. A feeling that my worth can be shown by being flexible and impressing other people rather than being perfect exactly where I am at this moment. A feeling that I need to hide my flaws and weaknesses and not learn in a public place where people can see me being shit at something. A feeling that I need to control myself in order to have predictable reactions from others so that I am not triggered.
Will having an awareness of this trigger stop me from crying in yoga class?
Maybe or maybe not. But the awareness can help me have some more self compassion and possibly give me back some of the energy I have been expending trying to hide myself from, well, myself and others.
So, what triggers you? Have you ever cried in a yoga class?
What are your triggers here to teach you? Let me know!