How 5 Wheel Poses Brought Me to Tears and Taught Me An Important Lesson
After reading “The Untethered Soul” recently, my life and yoga practice has changed drastically. Each chapter affected me deeply, permanently impacting my mind. Even with page after page of groundbreaking notion, the most pertinent takeaway I found was Michael Singer’s insights around opening the heart.
He says that whenever an uncomfortable emotion rises to the surface, rather than stuff it back down, we must relax in the face of this pain. When something triggers a deep wound in us, we naturally move to close our heart. The coping mechanism we learn virtually as soon as we are able to reason, closing the heart to pain is instinctual. The path to happiness, he says, involves feeling the unwanted emotions and allowing them to come up. Once you have allowed the pain to rise, you practice fighting the urge to close your heart. Singer says by practicing release in the face of these unwanted thoughts, as you journey through the discomfort, you dismantle it by responding with openness and relaxing further.
How yogic is that?
As I implemented this practice into my daily life, I thought I had come a long way. Rather than shoving my emotions further down, I simply allowed them to rise through my body and breathed into the discomfort until it no longer held any weight.
A few weeks ago, in teacher training, our instructor led us through a heart opening practice. Detoxing from coffee that morning, I met as much resistance as I brought to my mat.
The class began with child’s pose with our triceps on blocks, warming up the chest. Prompted to breathe into the back of the heart center, I felt okay starting to open. The first flows were uncomfortable, and the usual excitement I feel in my practice seemed far away. Airplane arms, prayer twists with hands on the heart and half frog pose cracked open both sides of my heart center. Towards the end of the standing series, I held another heart opener that drenched my mat in sweat. Whatever was coming up was definitely taking energy with it.
Finally, we landed with our backs to the mat. Rather than taking a bridge and then holding a wheel pose once or twice, our instructor had something else in mind. Honestly, when a teacher cues wheel, I always take it because I know the benefits of the pose. But, even one wheel pose brings up dread. The first wheel felt okay; but as always, I exited the pose as soon as I heard the word “exhale”.
In a cruel twist, following the first wheel, she cued us back into the pose four more times. Each time, more and more heat poured from my body. Each time, I hated it. When she told us we were going into wheel the fifth time, my eyes flooded with tears.
Something in me was resisting opening my heart over and over again. I wish I could say I used the wisdom from “The Untethered Soul” to process the pain, but all I wanted to do was pack my mat and leave.
Reflecting on this period of extreme discomfort, I can now see that these poses were destroying walls I spent decades building. I was physically practicing the relax and release concept I used off the mat. The darker emotions stored inside seeped to the surface and burned out of my body.
Albeit unpleasant, I know I came to my mat that day for a reason. The discomfort pulsing through my veins needed to move and be released.
Each time I practice I leave something behind that was hindering my growth, whether I realize it or not. Some days involve a lot of heavy lifting, while others come naturally. Feeling the bliss is a wonderful part of yoga, but it is not the only part. When we are pushed in ways that are beyond physical, our growth transcends what the eye can see.
The next time you feel angry, sad or upset on your mat, observe it as a deepening of your practice and experience on this Earth. Let the feelings come up and watch them, just as you would in meditation. This is the growth that yoga students have spent centuries searching for.
Embrace the tears, discomfort and urge to run. Stay open and know this is part of the path. As Michael Singer says, “nothing is worth closing your heart over.”