Last January, I wrote this post about the unexpected and really interesting experience I had while doing 30 days in a row (more or less) of yoga with my buddy Adriene, the Texan internet phenom yoga instructor that is almost as ubiquitous in my circles as the Bernie Mitten Meme. There has been a LOT go on since that post, both in my personal life and, obvs, the world. There is, however, a consistent thread that has woven its way through it all and I think that this thread began, or at least emerged out of the background in that post. I remember really vividly typing away in a coffee shop (remember that?) while waiting to see my best friend (Jennnnnnnnn, I misssssss youuuuuuu) for a coffee and a snack before heading off to in person teaching (remember THAT?) of my therapy students.
As I recall, we were reading excerpts from Janina Fisher, “Healing the Fragmented Selves of Trauma Survivors”. Without getting super technical, there is an idea that parts of us get hived off in our experience, assigned the job to hold feelings, self-concepts and impacts of trauma, and to keep it out of our every day awareness. It’s excellent as a temporary strategy but you can imagine, has its flaws. When we hive off parts, we lose access to not just the awful things, but the good things and our sense of narrative about our lives. Also those parts can feel isolated and sad and when that breaks through to our awareness, we use other means to push them away and that cycle just keeps on rolling along or maybe accelerating out of control until we are overwhelmed and unable to cope with all the screaming in our heads from all these disavowed places. This is something that everyone can relate to in varying degrees of severity.
So that book was on my mind somewhere as I was exploring what was coming up for me as I worked my way through 30 days of yoga practice and in that writing, I stumbled upon my awkward 13 year old self, looking at the window’s reflection as she walked by, hating herself for her clumsiness and general inability to handle social interaction. She was so present for me that when I wrote that post, I started to cry. . .or she did. . .I wasn’t sure but I took that to therapy.
Since that day, I have been attending in various ways to the 13 year old part of me. She has written some poetry, had some big hissy fits, cried a lot, gone to work with me, told me her secrets and also finally found a good gym teacher in Alex the trainer. She’s just been. . .around, making herself known with all her fears and need for acceptance and I have been paying attention in various ways that involve welcoming her as opposed to scrunching up every muscle in my body and willing her and her shame elsewhere “Just get out of my sight!” “I HATE you!” Strong language that. It’s so real.
I was super excited to start 30 days of Yoga with my friend Adriene again on January 1. I didn’t know what it would hold but I was excited to see if there was something different this year than last. I wasn’t clocking at all that I would want to deliberately notice the 13 year old in the practice. Silly me, she didn’t give me a choice in that matter and she showed up in the first week. I noticed it first as I moved gracefully from one pose to the next:
“Inhale, stretch up tall, exhale, float all the way down, forward fold, inhale, half way lift, exhale forward fold, place one hand, then the other, one foot back and then the other, inhale, plank, exhale, slowly lower down, inhale, cobra, exhale, downward facing dog.”
I was just floating along, confident, aware, engaged. It was magical.
“Is that you”, I asked her?
“Yup”, She said.
“Good job you”, I said.
“Thanks”, she said.
And that was that, we continued to practice and there was peace in my head. So, what happened there? Certainly, I am better at the yoga this year than I was last year. I’m stronger and more balanced because of the strength training I am doing in addition to the yoga. Yet, I think it’s bigger than that. Beyond strength and balance is integration and this integration is both physical and also psychic. The inner 13 year old feels palpably better than she did this time last year. She knows we learned how to make friends and she knows we learned how to find all sorts of love. She sees the success and meaningfulness that has accrued in our life and she feels entitled to it too, instead of holding all the feeling about the time we were not entitled to those things, or, at least, couldn’t find the feeling of that. She still gets roused and activated when I have a failure or a frustration or a fear of those things. But that communication between the rest of me and that state is so much more available now.
Did yoga heal me? Well, yes, in concert with a whole bunch of other things working together. Yoga certainly showed me something important, something that needed tending. When Adriene invites me now to curl over my bent knees and “hang out here for a minute in your own private love cave”, I hang out with me and sit in some love. I feel so grateful I can even though I’m not 100 percent sure exactly how I got here. Part of it is yoga and the rest is seeking a fuller self care and respect. I’m always sitting with my clients and encouraging them, implicitly and sometimes explicitly, to tend to themselves. When they eat, when they move, when they work. . .don’t forget to tend to yourself, even as you are attending to another. It’s more important now than ever.
Lotsa love y’all.