Power Yoga and Getting Unstuck

yoga-1482810Being a therapist means I sit most of the day.  After years of sitting my body had become tightly-wound and I found myself moving around with weird aches and pains like I was 80 years old.

So when I had the opportunity through a friend and colleague to try out power yoga, I thought it would be the perfect opportunity for me to get some of my flexibility back.

Here’s what you should know about power yoga: it’s freaking hard. Like, even if you don’t sit as much as I do, and don’t feel 80, it’s ridiculously challenging.  Power yoga isn’t just gentle stretching and holding of poses, it’s very vigorous with a lot of movement and sweating and contorting.  If one were in a negative mindset, one might compare it to a form of aggressive torture.  Eventually I snapped out of that mindset.

I expected to be physically challenged.  What I didn’t expect was the profound A-ha moment after one of my classes.  My realization was that I had not just become inflexible in my body; I had become inflexible in my life.

Aging and Getting Stuck

When we’re young we have no choice in whether or not we try new things.  We are forced to try new foods (I still shudder at the memory of trying asparagus at 9), make new friends, sign up for sports, dance classes, join the band, and on and on.  It’s like at birth; we’re shot out of a cannon and for decades we keep that momentum.  We go through life learning and exposing ourselves to new people, ideas, concepts, and relationships.

Slowly, the momentum dies and we find ourselves in middle age, completely stopped. We have the friends we have, the jobs we have, the slow-down-1-1378616beliefs we have, and that’s that.  All that’s left to do is build that 401K plan a little bit more, then retire and watch reruns of Melrose Place and nap until the big therapist in the sky calls us into his office.

Why does this happen? Why do we become stiff and rigid in our lives as we age?  I think it has something to do with keeping ourselves safe from emotional pain.  I remember that in one of my yoga classes, I had to hold a pose that was, in my personal opinion, cruel and diabolical.  The only thing I could do was to just breathe through the pain. Eventually I could release the pose and after class, I remember feeling amazing, not despite the pain, but because of it.  Working through the pain was helping my body heal.

But in life, I tried hard to avoid painful situations; I think we all do.  Whether it’s a small pain like having to get up in front of people to give a presentation, or a bigger pain like ending a toxic relationship, no one wants to feel bad.  And while this makes sense in our minds at the time, the more we do this, the more we shut ourselves off to new experiences, new relationships, and new challenges; the more we shut ourselves off to life.

How to Get Your Emotional Flexibility Back

In order to become unstuck in life and put ourselves in situations that are mentally or emotionally painful, we have to apply a fitness mindset.

How do we make our bodies strong and flexible?  Pain and repeated stress.  What do we do when we feel this pain and stress?  We breathe through it, knowing “no pain, no gain.”  So why can’t we apply these same fitness principles to our mental and emotional health?

“That which does not kill us makes us stronger.”  Ever hear this phrase before?  Just like doing 50 squats won’t kill you but make your butt and legs strong, putting yourself back on the dating market after a divorce or auditioning for a part in your community theater’s next production will make your heart and mind stronger.

Ah, but putting ourselves “out there” feels much scarier than exercising.  When you feel like you’re going to die on that elliptical machine, you know you’re not actually going to die.  There is no real fear to conquer.  But there is real fear of getting emotionally hurt in life.

enjoy-the-life-1543298But here’s the great thing about fear: when you feel it, it means you are living.  Just like feeling that burn in your legs is an indicator your muscles are getting stronger, feeling fear means you are getting emotionally stronger.  The more you allow yourself to feel fear, the less scary fear becomes and the more you put yourself “out there.”  And the more you put yourself out there, the more worthwhile and abundant your life becomes!

It took me holding some pretty insane poses and sweating my butt off for me to recognize I had become stuck in life.  And while opening myself up to new experiences continues to feel scary at times, I can already feel myself becoming more and more emotionally flexible.

Putting on an emotional suit of armor may seem like it will protect you from the hurts of life, but you just end up being stiff and having a hard time getting around.

 

Devon Herndon is a Licensed Professional Clinical/Substance Abuse Counselor, Personal Life Coach, Certified Personal Trainer, and a nationally certified teacher.  She is committed to helping young people be their highest selves in all areas: body, mind, and spirit.  Her expertise, enthusiasm, energy and educational background serve to create a unique blend of services and techniques employed to help you reach your goals.  For counseling sessions, coaching, or training, please contact her at 505.469.0779 or herndonconsulting@gmail.com.