May 24, 2013

Confessions of a (Yoga) Sensation Junkie.

Photo: Ashley Shanti

I’m a sensation junkie.

I am absolutely hooked on feeling what my body feels during my yoga practice.

In standing postures that challenge me, like twisted chair pose, I feel my body’s need to make sure that I’m softening where I can and strengthening where I can, in order to optimize my energy.

I make sure, for example, that I’m engaging my glutes and hamstrings. Likewise, I make sure my jaw and brow are relaxed.

During seated hip-opening postures, such as my personal favorite, cow-face pose, I feel the strength in my hip joints (that’s necessary to literally carry me through my day) begin to release slightly and give way to letting go—and then I feel my heart letting go along with that.

Being a sensation junkie isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

When I’m on my mat, I’m there to feel these sensations that arise inside of me.

Sometimes they’re uncomfortable, because I can feel my gripping; my lack of ability on a given day to ride the breath and experience whatever comes up. Yet I truly believe that it’s these sensations that allow us to stay mindfully present in our bodies and in our lives—both on the mat and off.

Off of the mat, I typically have a less enjoyable time staying present.

When my daughter is sick and I’m concerned for her, my natural reaction is to grab a glass of wine and cook and dance my worries away. Not necessarily the worst coping mechanism (certainly it’s better than my previous one of an eating disorder).

Sometimes staying consciously aware, and consciously connected to everything that’s occurring around you and in you, is the last thing that you want to do—and that’s why being a sensation junkie isn’t always a good thing, or even a helpful thing, either.

Take that glass of wine that I love.

I’m continually checking in with myself to make sure that I’m being healthy. Alcoholism is a real disease, and not one that I ever want to go through. Still, I don’t want to live a life of celibacy if I can help it—because I’m also a moderation junkie.

You won’t see me pass up a slice of birthday cake at a party because I’m off gluten.

At the same time, you won’t see me load up on that cake because I don’t deprive myself and know that I can always have more tomorrow if I really want it.

The thing is, life continually provides us with opportunities to experience sensations—moderate, extreme and everything in between.

We experience grief because someone we met and love will never be there to call again. (We might even always remember her phone number.)

We float on clouds of elation because our first child is born, and it turns out to be true that you don’t know what love is until you become a parent.

We get stuck in traffic.

We drink our morning coffee (another favorite mindful meditation of mine).

These things happen to us, and in us, and we have the option of shutting ourselves off or being open to the reality of what life really is—even, and especially, when it’s not fun.

So, yeah, I might be a sensation junkie on my mat, but that doesn’t mean that I never check out and have to focus on coming back into my physical awareness, leaving my monkey mind behind again—and this becomes even truer when I’m outside the yoga studio walls.

Denial can pop up and you don’t realize what hit you until it’s suddenly gone.

Remember recently when I got lost and found myself?

I sobbed and broke down, and it wasn’t because I was in the ghetto at a Church’s chicken instead of the Panera where I was supposed to be. My tears let loose because of that simple fact, sure, but the flood came because I’d been harboring my emotions, and they finally broke free and ran away on their own, without my rationally irrational denial intact.

I wasn’t in touch with my feelings of loneliness, of not fitting in, of rejection. I wasn’t in touch with these emotions, and they got the better of me when I couldn’t hide them anymore.

Because that’s the other thing about life—ignoring an issue just about never makes it go away.

When life gets challenging for me, when it turns ugly and I don’t want to look at it, that’s when I have to remind myself of who I am.

I have to remind myself that I love experiencing—and honoring—all of life, and all of myself.

I’m sensitive to the point of neurosis, and I’m honest—and I’m strong. I can handle life, and I can handle me—and so can you (handle you, that is).

If you want to be a true sensation junkie, yoga-related or otherwise, then remember that the most important time to tune in and to never tune out is during your everyday, waking reality.

Go ahead and grab that glass of wine if you’re able to–but don’t use it as a crutch. Come to think of it, don’t use your mat as one either.

It’s when we want to check out that life is really offering us an important lesson—and you deserve this chance to grow and to understand yourself better.

Who knows, you might be surprised to find out that you’re a sensation junkie too, that you’ve been one all along, and that this is honestly the wonderfully addicting part of life—coming to understand that these sensations aren’t permanent. Everything has its moment, and then its gone. What’s left, the only thing that’s left, is that serene fluidity that we constantly try to explain and never seem to be able to. (Depending on the day, I call it my soul or the divine.)

These sensations aren’t you, they aren’t me, and they aren’t our lives—but they are part of the real experience of all of these things.

I don’t know about you, but, for me, most of the time life is beautiful—and I don’t want to miss any of it.

“It is a curious sensation: the sort of pain that goes mercifully beyond our powers of feeling. When your heart is broken, your boats are burned: nothing matters any more. It is the end of happiness and the beginning of peace.” ~ George Bernard Shaw


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Ed: Brianna Bemel

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