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Sometimes we stay in situations that are hurting us because we can’t bear the thought of change. Yet the one thing I am reminded of time and time again is that there is only one certainty in this life: that things are in a constantly moving process of change. Trying to feel secure in the fact that nothing is secure can seem paradoxical, but actually makes perfect sense. How else can it be? For if nothing is certain, then our only choice is to start finding ways to accept the uncertainties. This can be easier said than done, of course.
Yoga has helped me to move through change with a sense of inner stability that can be hard to access in times of extreme emotional difficulty. I have lived my life battling with a very anxious mind, but I’m finding ways to manage that kind of high-level anxiety. From heart openers to hip openers and yin practices to yang, the way the breath connects me to my body and anchors me into the present moment is like nothing else.
Whether moving through vinyasa flows or remaining still in restorative postures, we always come back to the breath, allowing it to guide us into the here and now. This practice has helped me off the mat, allowing me to use the breath in the same way, which has prevented panic attacks before they get out of hand and helped me to keep calm in moments of extreme anxiety or PTSD flashbacks.
It's not like during asana practice my mind is always empty, super serene and free from outside thoughts. Sometimes it makes a hundred and one to-do lists during my yoga practice, or replays something from years ago. Maybe it starts to worry about next week or what I’m going to do in 2 years’ time or how much money I have in my bank account or if someone I love might die tomorrow. But soon enough, the practice requires us to bring our awareness and focus back to the present, back to what is happening on the mat, back to our alignment, our breath, and back into our bodies.
This sense of being in the present moment can allow profound change to take place in our energetic, emotional and physical bodies. The best way I can think to describe this from personal experience is how yoga helped me to deal with trauma. This particular journey all started in the hips. Hip opening classes and postures had me weeping into my mat, feeling out of control and vulnerable, desperate to escape and run for miles, or sometimes bubbling away with rage and fury deep within my body.
The practice asks of you not to run away but to remain present and surrender to what is, allowing any difficult emotions to move through you. This was by no means easy, but it allowed me to begin to heal some deep wounds.
There’s a lot to say about hips and how they can store emotions and trauma but for now, I'll keep it brief and just mention a very helpful piece of advice a great teacher in India gave me. She told me not to worry about actively trying to let go of tension and past traumas, but to “have faith in the practice and little by little your body will naturally start to open and release. Your body knows what it needs to do to heal.”
That was eight months ago. I was so tense at the time I found it hard to believe I could ever surrender such tension and pain. Now feeling how much has been released, and how open my hips have become through various hip openers and a regular yoga practice, I'm amazed at how the body does seem to know exactly how to heal and soften when given the opportunity.
Through my yoga practice I am finding the courage to be me, to process all those messy, difficult and at times overwhelming emotions, and to allow the mat to catch me when I fall. Physically, I am becoming much stronger and more flexible which mirrors on the outside what is happening inside. I am starting to realize that I can say “no thank you” or “not now” to relationships that are causing pain, or to situations that aren’t right and that actually, the fear of change is far more daunting and harmful than the change itself.
Sometimes we need our hearts to be broken open so that we can reconnect with ourselves. Various kinds of breakdowns or break ups can be breakthroughs, and I am forever grateful to my yoga practice for guiding me through such a process.