November 3, 2015

Yoga for Self-Preservation.

Christopher Campbell via Unsplash

The past few years have been especially emotional, as if going to acting school wasn’t already a wild ride for all the senses and sensibilities.

The choices we are asked to make as “apprentice artists” are terrifying, at best. They taste frightening, but the aftertaste is delightful, and that delight lingers.

It’s the delight that will lead you to play with fire. It’s the delight that comes with an edge of danger. It’s the delight that feeds and fuels our contradictions, sometimes justifying them. It’s the delight that manifests only upheavals, sometimes turmoil.

To release anger, I would grab my boxing gloves and “let it all out”; I would feed on the masculine energy, the male aggression, the animalistic wild side we all have within us. To take a bite out of life, and rip out its flesh; to taste the succulence, to taste the salt in the sweat.

To reverse a low self-esteem day, I’d go to Zumba, or a club, and just dance all night. There’s something primal about having the bass run through your body like that, to have every fiber of you pulsate.

When I was ready to be completely feminine again, I would spend three hours at the pole studio. Liquid motion is a thing of sensual magic. It transforms the way you move, the way you plan your move, and moving can never be the same afterwards.

But the physical validation is just that—a physical charge, a lust that’s fleeting, a sensation that will leave your body the moment you step outside the studio back into reality.

Sometimes, on hard days, the days I need yoga the most, I avoid it. I avoid yoga because there are too many mirrors. Too many mirrors in the studio, too many mirrors looking in. It’s too much confrontation.

On hard days, I just want to be numb, not more aware. Yoga prescribes a quality of consciousness. I don’t want to check-in. Not with anybody, least of all myself. So I avoid yoga.

I avoid yoga because I don’t want to cry. I want to shout, to scream, to physically exhaust myself, without all the upheavals of yoga. Endorphins, not emotions, is what I want. It gets quite high-maintenance, if you think of it this way, but of course you shouldn’t think of it this way.

It’s in fact not high-maintenance at all; I just can’t handle it. It’s me. I avoid yoga because I’m not strong enough for yoga, yet I practice it well enough to do it without distraction. On bad days, I could use some distraction.

Is this how bad habits are formed?

“Each of us struggle every day to define and defend our sense of purpose and integrity, to justify our existence on the planet and to understand, if only within our own hearts, who we are and what we believe in. We are all warriors.” ~ Steven Pressfield, The Warrior Ethos

There is then a Warrior Ethos. “The Warrior Ethos embodies certain virtues—courage, honour, loyalty, integrity, selflessness and others—that most warrior societies believe must be inculcated from birth.”

I read and reread this passage; it resonates throughout all of me. Sometimes, the mantras and chants in yoga are hard for me to repeat, if nothing else because of my complete lack of a Sanskrit tongue.

Yet this passage, this is yoga for the soul, this is yoga for the battlefield: We need it for self-preservation.

I speak of ethos, because yoga is about ethos. Yoga without Ethos is like pain-au-chocolat without the chocolat.

Yoga is the practice of mindfulness, of higher pursuit, of a journey towards an enlightened community. We are a counterpose to fear, to the array of darker impulses that lead us astray.

Yoga is coming face-to-face with yourself, and the war that you fight.

Yoga is coming face-to-face with the impulses of shame, honour and love. Yoga is truthful, and that’s not always easy, but you can’t flee a war that chases you for the rest of your life.

There’s a degree of recklessness that’s worse than deliberating seeking to die.

Yoga is to self-preservation what the serenity prayer is to all the programs. Sometimes, to become whole, you have to fall apart first. That’s the hardest part. It takes courage to restart a life, but even harder is to allow yourself to fall apart.

That takes exceptional bravery—with each rising sun, one salutation at a time.



The Healing, Inspiring & Transformational Benefits of Yoga.


Author: Xiren Wang

Assistant Editor: Jan Farias; Editor: Caroline Beaton

Image: Christopher Campbell / Unsplash

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