by Kara-Leah Grant, Musings from the Mat
I rolled out my yoga mat this afternoon, grabbing an opportunistic moment to get in my practice.
My lunch was well digested.
The baby was sleeping.
My partner was outside practicing his guitar.
And I knew I needed to practice. No asana for two days and my body felt tight. There was tension in my left shoulder shooting up into my neck, and my lower back has been uncharacteristically achy for a few weeks.
One long om shanti track into my practice I noticed the dropping temperature in the lounge as the late autumn sun dipped behind the Dunedin hills. My mat was right beside the fire – something my partner likes to keep roaring, and does an awesome job at all the time.
In fact, I hadn’t lit it since we’d moved down to Dunedin a few weeks back. It was getting colder, and the light was fading.
Should I light the fire?
Stop my practice?
Get it going?
And then start up again?
I pondered for a moment in a long, deep child that softened the tension right through my spine.
Before I could come to a decision, the baby awoke with a get-me-now cry. Can’t argue with that.
So I fetched Samuel, placed him in his bouncinette beside my mat and resumed my practice.
The fire niggled.
And Samuel wouldn’t settle on the bouncinette.
So I stepped off my mat and applied myself to the fire first, getting it going so I could sit cross-legged on my mat in sukhasana to feed Samuel.
It’s now about half an hour later. The sky is streaked candy floss across a quarter moon and I still haven’t got back onto my mat.
But it doesn’t matter.
I’ve been practicing my yoga the whole time – staying present to whatever arises, moving with awareness, but most of all, being connected to what’s around me.
For too long, my yoga practice was an escape from the world, my place of solitude and retreat where I could find peace. In some ways, despite the very real work I did on the mat, opening to deeper and deeper layers of Self, I did use my mat as a wall, a boundary.
When things got tough in the day-to-day ins and outs of my relationship, I would run to my mat to escape because I knew my practice would make me feel better. Not so different to reaching for a chocolate bar, tv remote, glass of wine, bong or a line… just with healthier long term results.
And it did make me feel better, giving me strength to continue on with the difficult work of waking up. But lately I’ve realised just how much I’d been using my practice as that escape, and how extraordinarily difficult relationships have been over the years for me – something I often didn’t know at the time because I was just too busy running.
Over the years I’ve used everything as a way to run – geographical shifts, drugs & alcohol, work, the internet… and yes, even yoga and meditation, although it’s taken me ten or more years of practice to realise that running away to the mat it still running away.
Opening to true intimacy and love has revealed deep levels of pain, vulnerability and oceans of tears that have to be sat through. Yet fear of this pain has led to subtle self-sabotage of relationships – of blaming and judging and running. Mostly running. I’ve been very astute at finding reasons to leave, and leave, and leave again.
Ten years or more into yoga, it sometimes feels like life is way harder on this path of opening and awakening than it ever was when I was lost in denial and ignorance. But once you start… how can you stop?
Marianne touched on this aspect of the yogic path in her article Yoga doesn’t get you a pass on life. In it she says:
As I understand yoga, it is the practice of meeting ourselves wherever we are.
That means meeting ourselves, with courage and compassion, even when we are in a place of fear or anger or sadness. Rather than transcending our fears, it means meeting them. It means going through, rather than around, our fears and it means being able to look at ourselves, just as we are, with acceptance and love.
For me in the last week or so, it’s meant awakening to the realisation that sometimes other things are just as important as our spiritual practice – like family, home, warmth and food. Call it a first chakra awakening if you like. I’ve finally become grounded, something that’s physically manifested itself in a sudden ease in my forward bends.
Yes, all those years of working hard to push myself forward into a bend… and I’ve finally realised that all I had to do was let go and surrender. Simple – but not easy. Letting go means allowing myself to be vulnerable, and it turns out, that’s a really scary feeling.
All those years when I didn’t know I was running – that’s what I was running from. Vulnerability.
All those years when I pushed away the necessities of a grounded life – family, love, a home – that’s what I was scared of. Vulnerability.
This last week or so, in my new home with my new family in my old hometown of Dunedin, I’ve finally stopped – still – and felt.
I’ve finally come home.