You know when you’re in yoga in an insanely deep backbend and your yoga teacher is yelling at you, “soften your heart forward and up, heart forward and up!!” and you feel like you are about to crack wide open and it sort of feels good but you think you might pass out or throw up or throw something at someone and every cell inside of you is like “fuck you! fuckyoufuckyoufuckyou….”? and then they’re still speaking but now they’ve signaled you out, “Miles! Soften your shoulder blades down the back!!!! Heart forward and up!!!! Forward and up!!!!” You feel like your eyes are bleeding and your insides are yelling “I’M TRYING!” They make it sound so easy and you just want to get out of the pose and start throwing plates and glasses against the walls. And mostly you just want them to shut up. SHUT UP! Finally, you come out of the pose, a pose you’ve never tried before, a very close to your edge pose or on your edge pose and you wonder, “How the fuck am I ever going to soften into that? That’s not even possible.” You can’t imagine a world in which ease would exist within this pose. Not in this fucking pose. And not in this fucking lifetime. Maybe if unicorns came flying through the windows and oompaloompas came to your aid it could happen.
This is a hypothetical situation. Obviously. Nothing like this has ever happened to me. And who would want to throw plates, anyway? Please….
Yogis, I can say confidently that when put to the test, I have all up and failed at the most basic level in my newly way way way advanced yoga. I have failed so terribly and so grandly that its funny. I am a fool.
I have learned this past year that we look at healing in our culture like something we have to do. It’s a problem we try to fix. We go to the doctor, we get our meds, we wear the brace, we do the treatments and hope to walk out at the other end as we were. Patched. This way of thinking is so deeply embedded in us culturally, that even though I know better and am constantly giving others good advice on this topic, deep down, I discovered I have this little weed of a belief as well. And have not afforded myself the same respect and kindness.
I now have a better understanding that this is far from how healing actually works. I’m a good doer, anyone who has met me knows that. I excel at it. So when I do things, I do them 108%. Believe me, I’ve put everything I have into healing quicker. I’ve stood over that seed for months, yelling ,”grow dammit, grow!!”. But nature has its own plans for me and is like “You, you’re working for me now. This is MY house!”.
The thing about healing, is that it is much like all the mystical things and all the good things in life: love, growing, respect, laughter, joy, trust- you can’t rush it and it is given, not taken. It is truly the most advanced yoga pose. Take that savasana! You heard me. Much like that backbend, it comes from undoing, from ease, not from doing and strain. Sthira/Sukha. Rest. TRUE REST. The thing that makes this even more challenging, is that there is a lot of shame and guilt surrounding healing. I have felt lazy, weak, like I have nothing to offer. It’s not you. This is all me. Because there is a dangerous underlying belief, especially in the wellness industries, that healing your body is directly co-related to healing your heart and mind and that sometimes that healing won’t occur is there is a resistance to letting go. Or that if you are injured or ill, it is because your wholeness is not well.
It comes deeply connected to the very shallow understanding of karma that if you are good, good things will happen. No! Life happens! Your practice is what helps you deal with it. You try to be good to make whatever challenges arise more manageable and to navigate them better.
Many yoga teachers won’t even ever speak of their injuries. We are closeted bunch. There are no yoga teachers with anorexia or ripped rotator cuffs. And no, my hamstrings sing Sri Ram all day, thank you, especially in hanuman. This is a major problem. If we cannot show our vulnerability to you, if what we are modeling is that being a bit under or a lot under is not acceptable, then we are giving you the message that sick, ill or injured= weak/non-yogic. But this is a healing practice. At least that is what I want it to be for me.
It is true on some level, that our minds and hearts affect our health I don’t deny that. But I am finding that to be an incredibly reductive look at a much more complex issue. Accidents happen. People get hurt. And dammit, cancer has stolen some of the best people I know off of this planet. You can’t plan for everything in life and you can’t change things simply by willing them. You also can’t avoid hurt by being a good, sound person. The yoga prepares us for this- for life. It prepares us so we stay integrated throughout anything and everything that can and will happen to us.
It took me nine months to realize I 15 years of training and I had yet to learn the lesson. And reading this just now, I am realizing I had a baby. I had a wisdom baby- nine months. Boom. When confronted with the most advanvced asana- healing- I failed. I went right to the place of doing and in my confusion, depression, loneliness, and grief, I forgot to soften, to allow, to undo.
The greatest gift people have offered me in this time is to hold the space for me. To not give me advice. To not try to make it better. To listen. And to witness. Sometimes that has meant me flailing, or bawling, or laughing, or being like fuck it, I’m going to master this fucking injury. That space. That non-judgement. That opportunity for me to arrive at the understanding on my own has meant everything to me. I can’t thank those of you that have shown up in this way enough. You have been my life-line. I am not exaggerating. I am extremely humbled and grateful for your patience and your sweetness. Not a day goes by where I am not incredibly grateful for having you in my life.
If you want the absolute best that I have to offer, come this Saturday May 7 at 7:30 at Prema Yoga in Brooklyn, it may be the one chance you get to hear The Monkey Menace live, as I am not sure when or if we will play live again. Check out our sound HERE! Bring your kids and your pups!
I’m teaching a Hands on Assist Workshop for teachers and non alike at Prema Yoga on May 15 at 2. Come! It’s going to be awesome.
Also, thanks to everyone who came out to play at the Bhakti Center. I can’t thank you enough. It was truly awesome for me. Classes are suspended for the summer. I may pick them back up in the fall if you guys want them. Just let me know.
Come to India with me in October or Dollywood and the Smokeys in August.
Freaks and Geeks: if you want to read an incredible and provocative article about advanced practice, check out my friend Francesca Cervero and her article. I could not have articulated it any better. You can also listen to it.
Other than that, I found this amazing video and think it needs no words. Enjoy!