This past week was difficult for me. There were periods of high highs and low lows, frustrations, chaos, and disappoints. Times like these I have no desire for yoga. Well, I want it, but I yearn for the "perfect" yoga. You know that type of yoga, right? Where you go to a class and everything just comes to you in the most effortless way, and you walk out feeling on top of the world?
I don't know about you, but when I'm stressed out, my practice is an effort. Instead of full breath, physical strength and an empty mind, I find myself breathing shallowly, feeling weak, my mind filled with thoughts of the day. The practice becomes really emotional for me, and frustration and anger boil up for the most ridiculous reasons- my arms are shaking in balancing stick, or I have less height than usual in crow. But there's a saying: Everyone should meditate 20 minutes a day. Unless you're too busy. Then you should meditate for an hour. Since yoga is a meditation in motion, the same is true for the yoga practice. When I am stressed out, that is when it's most important that I come to the mat and let it all unfold, peeling back those layers of frustration, anger, sadness - whatever is going on to find a breakthrough.
The most beautiful and most terrifying thing about yoga is that it acts as a mirror for profound self-reflection. Obviously it's a beautiful thing when you have one of those "perfect" classes and you all but float out of class.
But those ugly times? Those moments where you feel like you're going to scream because the teacher said three more breaths and you've counted seven breaths and you're still in downward dog? Those practices are the worst, in the moment - but the best after the fact.
Why? Because look at what it says about you. It says that you're open to being vulnerable. It says that you're able to let go of your ego and those so-called perfect practices to lay out the raw truth of what you're going through. It says that you're willing to examine the layers of emotions in the worst of times, thereby acquiring a better understanding of who you really are.
I will be the first to tell you that I don't really have anything figured out, but the most profound thing I've experienced while practicing yoga in times of stress is an intense sense of gratitude. Because every problem that I've dealt with has had in it an opportunity to learn. It isn't easy, and I don't always see it like that right away, but I try to keep in mind that yoga is called a practice. Every day the mat is a blank slate for self-discovery if you're willing to pour out what you're going through, and sift through it during the practice.