I am having a moment.
I peel myself from a failed attempt at Kapotasana (king pigeon) to have a chat with ‘Mirror Mirror.’
She stares back at me and laughs, “You are a Hot Mess,” she says. “No really, you are hot. And, you are a mess.”
The 95 degree plus temperature of our studio prevents fellow students from seeing that a large percentage of the drops of sweat pooling on my mat, are, in truth, tears. Big fat juicy ones. What is going on here? Am I the only one having an emotional breakdown in pigeon pose? I asked my fellow yogis—turns out the answer is ‘no;’ I am notthe only one. Lots of us, it seems, have ‘been there, done that.’
I am, you are, we are all—a Hot Mess.
When the teacher sometimes asks what poses we hate the answers are invariably camel, wheel, frog and pigeon. Sarah says, “Revolved Triangle made me realize that like life, sometimes you just can’t get it. I suck at it. And that’s okay.”
Tonya’s fear flares when flip dog turns into wheel. “Transitions can be awkward and painful,“ she says. “Sometimes you find yourself in a position that seems impossible—or just out of reach. So close, and yet so far.”
Off The Mat founder, Seane Corn shares about her first pigeon breakdown, “a shift of energy happened in my body. Energetically it released the tension, and when it released, it allowed me to feel.”
Then sometimes the pose we hate becomes the pose we love. My friend Michael used to hate pigeon. He would squirm, drink water and flee to the bathroom. Yet now, it is his favorite pose—loving it best when we hold it extra long. He has gone so far as to refer to himself as a hip whore. “I just realized one day it is easier to project than to reflect. That’s true in pretty much everything. So now I stay. Really stay. And that has made all the difference.” Sometimes pigeon makes me cry. But other days I just feel peace. Sometimes I almost fall asleep.
So what is going on? Is it the body?
Massage therapists often share that muscle has memory. Specifically, that the fascia holds not only muscle memory but emotional memory attached within—like an insect trapped in a spider’s web. Myofascial expert Tom Myers states, “the fascial net is itself a polarized, ionized, electric network.” Can it be that the perfect combination of heat, time and breath in asana can affect the plastic-like quality of fascia, allowing not only a structural change but also a release of embedded material?
Ilya Prigogine’s Nobel Prize winning work teaches us that open systems, of which we humans are prime examples, are in a constant flow of energy. We dissipate entropy continually to our environment in order to grow and improve. In fact, the definition of evolution is when a system reaches a state of overwhelm and then ‘escapes‘—making the proverbial quantum leap into a higher order. So, what’s that Mirror Mirror? Did you just saybreakthrough maybe?
Or, is it the mind?
Students of Sri K. Pattabhi Jois often heard him say, “Body not stiff, mind stiff.”
Chinese texts have, for over 5,000 years, linked emotion to biological response. Anger is thought to be stored in the liver and gallbladder, grief and anxiety in the lungs and large intestine, worry in the stomach and spleen, fear and fright in the kidneys and bladder. And joy, of course, in the heart. These parallel relationships even influence our use of language. We might say—’I am sick with worry,’ ‘she is broken-hearted’ or ‘I was so scared I almost peed myself.’ Are poses that focus on specific parts of anatomy channeling associated emotions?
So, maybe this is the ‘Bodymind?’
The term bodymind coined by Herbert Benson M.D. at Harvard in the late 1960s expresses in English the essence of the word yoga itself.
Yoga equals union.
That the union of the body plus the mind moving through the meditation of an asana practice can elicit an emotional response is often evident after the very first class, yet we may not uncover it fully for years. Showing up and doing my practice day after day creates the space both in the physical body and between my thoughts to experience a glimpse of this Bodymind union.
Even Kino MacGregor says, after years of accomplished practice, “every posture contains this tightrope walk across the abyss of human emotions.” Creating this bodymind space during practice we have the opportunity to touch upon what the Buddhist call ‘suchness’ (Tathata in sanskrit), the fundamental intrinsic condition. Suchness is the harmony of ‘Not Two‘—the root of non-dualism—where nothing is separate, yet nothing is excluded.
Considering suchness helps when conversing with MirrorMirror. Accepting my tears as neither breakdown norbreakthrough. Rather, as my sister likes to say, it is what it is. Not good, not bad. Just is.