Yoga Sūtra I.31 duḥkha daurmanasya aṅgamejayatva śvasa-praśvāsāḥ vikṣepa-saha-bhuvaḥ
These are symptoms of agitation and lack of focus (vikeṣpa-saha-bhuvaḥ), symptoms that you are out of balance:
emotional turmoil or distress (duḥkha)
negative thinking (daurmanasya)
body parts are trembling/ body doesn’t function well (aṅgamejayatva)
breathing is short and shallow (śvasa-praśvāsāḥ)
The other day, the girls and I were swimming in the pool and my dad leaned over the fence to say Dave had called. His flight arrived but he’d be a couple hours late because he wanted go out after work to visit with a friend. Dave doesn’t go out after work very often so I was both surprised and glad he was going. After that, I didn’t give it much thought. The girls and I finished our swim, they bathed, we ate dinner, we did all our evening sweet stuff and eventually, I tucked them in and kissed them goodnight. At this point, alone with myself, the trouble started.
I was getting myself ready for bed and I started to feel nervous. “It’s unlike Dave to go out after work. What if something else is going on?” Unfortunately, there was a time when something else was going on and as soon as that thought popped into my head, a whole bunch of old ugly feelings came on in and took over my body and my mind. Just like that.
I brushed my teeth with these anxieties and feelings snowballing and gaining speed. Even though part of me was sure Dave was just fine, my stomach was turning and I could feel my heart pounding in my chest. I noticed this physical stuff right away, but maybe for the first time, I could also watch my thoughts take a turn toward the dark and desperate. I thought about the time after Dave and I split up, but I didn’t really want to stay with that so it came and went. I could let that go but the anxiety was still there. I stepped into the shower and I started to worry about teaching yoga which led me to obsess about a student who never misses my class and then missed three in a row. As I shampooed, I felt absolutely certain that the reason she isn’t coming has to do with me and my teaching. Something I am doing is making her so uncomfortable that she’s given up yoga and might never come back. What could I possibly say to her if I run into her? Will I go on wondering and worrying forever? How could I have been so insensitive to the needs of my student? Even though part of me could see the connection between this negative thinking and my worries of before, another part was hooked in. I couldn’t stop myself from believing what I was hearing in my head and I couldn’t imagine any other possible reason for her to stop coming other than something I had done. I really couldn’t.
I got out of the shower, finished up there and decided I could do a little prāṇāyāma practice before Dave got home and maybe that would help me to chill out. I sat down and prepared to move, breathe and be quiet. Just as I settled in, he arrived. We hadn’t seen each other in a few days, but I asked for 10 minutes to do my thing before we talked.
I’d like to say that yoga practice fixed everything and I was fine afterwards, but I wasn’t. I was still anxious and upset. The thing I can say is that the practice helped me to find the tiniest bit of space. I had space to notice that I was tired and needed to sleep. I could see that my body was still agitated and my stomach was still wonky. I noticed that I hadn’t felt like this in a while and I used to feel like this a lot of the time. When I felt like this in the old days, I always picked a fight. I had space to remember that picking a fight didn’t ever help me to feel better. Not even once.
When we finally talked that night, we didn’t get into anything heavy. We just spent a little time together and then we slept. I had a terrible dream that woke me in the middle of the night and when I looked over, I was glad Dave was there. The next morning, I felt much better—I was less upset and my body was relaxed. I was able to tell Dave about my dream and about what was going on for me the night before, and he listened, and then we started our day. I didn’t think about my student again until the afternoon and by then, I remembered that she might have other things going on in her life other than my yoga class, or maybe my hunch is correct and she isn’t into what I’m teaching these days. I remembered that what I offer won’t always work for everyone and that’s just the way it goes.
I so appreciate these small spaces that yoga helps me to find. My practice doesn’t offer an instant cure or a flash of complete understanding, but even a subtle change of the trajectory can help me move in a better direction. It has also helped me able to tolerate things that aren’t comfortable. This doesn’t make yoga sound very glamorous, but I’m really not in it for glamour. I’m in it for this kind of stuff– little, subtle noticing of stuff I’d like to shift or change. On the other side of noticing, these changes, if they happen, are slow and subtle, forward and back. But that’s okay. Actually it feels pretty good.
If you are interested in experiencing the small spaces and the subtle shifts that a personal yoga practice can support, send an email with “small spaces” in the subject line. amandagreenyoga at gmail dot com.
And if you are in Austin, TX, join me for this upcoming workshop:
Yoga for stress Management: Understanding stress through a yogic lens
Saturday, August 2nd
The Hills Health Club
$35 Hills Members/ $40 Non-members
To register, contact me or:
Amanda Stringer, firstname.lastname@example.org
Patañjali’s Yoga Sūtras is full of ancient wisdom for modern times.
- We all have stress in our lives. (1.30)
- “There are 5 clues that we are stuck (and not just waiting). (1.31) “
- And 9 solutions to help us find balance again. (1.23-39)Join Amanda for both a yoga practice and discussion geared to help you better understand how yoga can change patterns of thought and encourage healthy (not chronic!) stress-responses in the body. You’ll leave with a better understanding of the physiology of acute and chronic stress and have tools from first chapter of the yoga sutras to know when you are out of balance and what to do about it. The yoga sutras teach that with less stress we can better enjoy positive-thinking, peace and calm, feelings of ease, and long smooth breathing in our lives. aaaahhhhhh.