If you decide that you never want to do yoga, I get it. It’s hard. It starts off as this benign exercise class that is going to help you be more flexible and then it creeps into your psyche, opening your eyes to all this mildly to severely unpleasant stuff that you do to yourself. There should be a warning label on all yoga mats. I’m not sure what it should say exactly. Something like, “watch out!”
Recently, I’ve become aware of an unpleasant pattern that I’ve got going on. Thank you very much, yoga. This pattern has to do with clear and honest self-expression. It is related to knowing what it is that I want/need and then the ability to ask for it. My particular pattern is that I don’t do these things very well at all.
For instance, the other day, I found myself in the low-down-dumps. I really wanted to hang out with a friend, share some space, share some thoughts, maybe food. I was feeling overwhelmed and I needed a different perspective. I wanted a big hug. So I texted a friend and asked for exactly what I needed. The text went like this,
Me: “Want to meet for tacos?”
reply: “Love to, but can’t today. Xo”
In my head, I’m thinking, “I really want you to hold me,” but I reach out with a text (because texts are really good for deep communication) to express my need with just the right amount of vulnerability and clarity. “Want to meet for tacos?” WHAT * THE * HECK? The whole thing is a set up. I’m framing myself. I’m sad and need a hug. I can think of a whole handful of wonderful people who could give me one of those big, can’t-take-a-full-inhale squeezes, but instead of letting myself be vulnerable and real with that and asking for it, instead, I ask for tacos??!! How does meeting for tacos express any of that stuff that I’m wanting? Even if I met my friend for tacos, could I actually get into the nitty-gritty of my overwhelm with the carnitas and onions and cilantro staring back from the table? Would the other diners mind if I cried quietly for a while and then got that big 2 minute hug at the table right next to them?
Sigh… See what I mean? I’ve got some work to do. And here’s another warning I’m going to suggest that you sharpie onto your mat. Yoga doesn’t open your eyes to complicated and esoteric meanderings that you can close up and put on the shelf until your next existential crisis. It is very useful in a daily life/relationship kind of way. You start to see that the work you need to do is quite basic and there are opportunities to practice that kind of thing all of the time. Stuff like: Pay attention to what you need. Ask for what it is that you need. Say it in a way that is true to your intention. You are going to have to figure out the wording for this warning. Maybe something like, “beware!!!”
This is the stuff of satya, truthfulness. The word means, “to speak the truth.” Satya comes up in the Yamas, that first limb of yoga in which Patanjali offers some deceptively simple suggestions as to how we should relate to others: Offer thoughtful consideration to others, be truthful, don’t take things that don’t belong to you, have right relationships, take only what you need. But here’s the thing… in order to be able to use these yogi-yama-super-powers with others, you have to be able to use them with yourself. You can’t go all benevolent on your brethren until you are benevolent with your own special self.
I’m working on this clear communication stuff. I’m trying to get better at lessening the self-sabotage that I’ve got going on. Next time I ask you to get tacos with me, it’s going to be about carne asada and cilantro, iced tea and sharing a meal, but can we still get a big hug in at the end?