Photo Credit: Madhu Nair (10yearitch.com)
I've been thinking a lot lately about explaining how yoga works on the emotions. Because, well, if you haven't noticed, yoga works on the emotions. Very quickly into the process of practicing yoga I figured out that I was stirring things up, and also experiencing joy just by hanging out in these poses.
The metaphor that has been clinging around lately is one of having a thorn in your foot. Imagine that some big emotional hurt in your life is actually a thorn you stepped on. If you step on a thorn, it's going to hurt, especially if it's a really big thorn. Initially this thorn will cause some trouble, your foot will get red and puffy, it will hurt to walk and you'll be uncomfortable. But say that instead of immediately sitting down and removing the thorn you decide to just live with it there. Eventually your foot starts to get used to having the thorn. And after a while, you grow a big hard callous over the thorn spot. You keep it very safe and it doesn't hurt anymore. You might even forget it's there. But it IS there. It causes you to avoid other spots that might be thorny, and it maybe throws off your alignment and causes pain in other places like your hip or knee. You walk funny because you're trying to be safe on that foot.
Then you start to do yoga. The process of yoga is like wearing down the callous. Slowly but surely the callous around the hurt is worn down until finally the initial problem is exposed. The Thorn. The big emotional hurt that you couldn't deal with when it first happened. Now yoga has revealed to you a big cause of pain in your life(great! wasn't one of the main reasons to do yoga for the fun and delight, John Friend??). Well, now You have a choice. Run away, grow a new callous, try to hold the thorn in place... or Deal.
This is really the moment of truth. Yoga will get you there. But YOU have to deal with it. The most effective thing to do now is very gently and lovingly invite the thorn to move out. In the beginning, you didn't think you could do anything with the problem because you thought you didn't have the strength or skills. But now after practicing for a while you realize you are more than you thought. You do have the skills to care for yourself, and even some tools at your disposal. Maybe some tweezers would help. Tweezers come in the form of tears, journaling, love letters, rage letters, fires of release, meditation on the pain and setting it free, more asana. Anything that invites MOVEMENT and TRANSFORMATION of the energy that is the thorn. It may take a while, but it will happen that one day once given love and care, that thorn won't be there anymore.
Then, once the thorn is mindfully removed we think 'OH YES! I'm free, I'm all set, I feel great!' only at first you don't feel great. Now is a time to take even MORE care. That space where the thorn has been is going to be tender to the touch, and is going to need more attention than usual. That space is very special and you have to keep it from getting infected with ointment and bandages. You even have to teach yourself to walk again without a thorn in your foot.
BUT finally, after all is said and done, you'll heal up back to the way you're meant to be. Back to your whole complete self withOUT a thorn to work around. Your legs and hips feel better too and you even smile more. Plus, you know that if you ever step on a thorn again you'll deal with it right away rather than wait. Not only that, you start to realize how to avoid the thorns in the first place.
That is what it feels like to me to let the yoga do it's work and clear out emotional pains. Sometimes I know just what I'm working on. Other times I'm blissfully unaware, I just know some energy is being transformed from pain to joy. I know when it comes to the moment of truth and I'm staring at the thorn that if I just keep doing asana it will move through, but I've found I can help myself with the tools I listed above. Eventually, I have landed on the other side of a lot of hurts and this is positive I think.
I don't think however that in anyway this is a new idea, I don't know where or if I formally learned it, but it works for me. Now get on your mat and get the thorns out!!! Just kidding... how about give yourself a big hug and love yourself even more. And if you made it to the end of this long post you get a gold star!
Contemplation: What is the link between yoga and emotion for me? IS there one???