A few weeks ago I took up a “mental workout” class – aka Yin Yoga. If you’ve never had the pleasure (and pain) of doing such a class, let me explain.
Yin Yoga involves passive, yet challenging, poses that you hold for 3-10 minutes. The goal is to find your edge, lean into it, and stay still (not to move or even fidget) until it’s time to switch poses. Oh, and stay present with your breath and body sensations so you make sure to endure all of it without escaping to some daydream. On the surface it sounds like a relaxing class, a break from the usual higher intensity yoga class. I can assure you it’s different, but in no way less challenging. I find it the most challenging class of the week.
It’s tough – and I know as we approach minute 6 in Dragon Pose (I know, ironic eh?), the moment that I want to get up and walk out, the moment I swear I’m going to start sobbing – that’s the moment I know how much I need to do this.
When I’m shaking and wincing and resisting the discomfort, that’s when I know how good this is for me. When my mind starts to race and fear thoughts flood in around what those body sensations mean, I know how necessary and how powerful this practice is. I can tell what this practice will do for me – how much growth potential it holds.
My mind is shouting at me to get up – and I know I’m exactly where I should be.
Just being able to see that is powerful to me. I am no longer defined by what thoughts are there in that moment. There is enough space between me and those fear thoughts that I can have them and still know what I know. I am not my thoughts. That in itself is a huge relief, it helps me even begin this practice. It helps me see the possibility of not reacting to them. I may not always succeed in finding stillness and calm with fears swirling in my mind, but I at least know it’s a possibility.
Learning to feel intense physical sensations and observe- not react or pull away from them – just observe and stay present with it. Feel it fully without resisting it or trying to change it.
Pretty much a perfect exercise for someone working on dealing with anxiety or panic attacks in a different, mindful way. I highly recommend this for anyone in this situation. What amazing practice it gives you in finding calm through uncomfortable and intense sensations -such a useful skill to have when panic or anxiety arises. Instead of listening to the voice screaming at you to leave the restaurant or believing the panic that tells you there’s something seriously wrong with you, you can use those skills to sit with what comes and not be afraid of the discomfort.
To find calm among the crashing waves – not by rushing to shore – but instead learning to keep swimming as the waves crash against you.
A few weeks into this practice of accepting and leaning in to discomfort is starting to help me sit with uncomfortable feelings off the mat; to accept thoughts and feelings just as they are. I am able to stay present with my feelings and acknowledge them for just being what they are- instead of making a judgment on what they mean or what they say about me as a person. I’m letting them be there, as uncomfortable as they may be. I’m not pulling away, I’m not avoiding.
I’m leaning in and finding stillness.