I feel lucky enough to have a practice of consistently doing things I don't want to do, going where I don't want to go, and feeling things I don't want to feel. Meeting my edges. It's called Forrest Yoga. And I've been doing it for 12 years now.
It grows me. Tremendously.
It's taboo to talk about pushing beyond our physical edges. Especially in a place like where I live in Boulder, Colorado, where there's already a culture of over-exercise and ignoring our body's signals so we can achieve more physically.
I hated my first Forrest Yoga class because I misunderstood it as this more-harder-better phenomenon.
I was dead wrong.
Now, as a Psychotherapist, I recommend it to so many people because I deeply understand the healing benefit of meeting and going beyond what we think are our physical edges.
Forrest Yoga is actually a practice of softly and openly meeting your physical edge---the place where your body begins to say "No" or "I can't"---and staying. Finding out what lives there.
Because you're willing to love yourself there, of all places.
The fear you experience in a lunge. The anger you feel when the teacher is cueing you to hold a pose for "way too long." The feelings of shame or insecurity that creep out of your hips in poses like straddle or pigeon.
These are opportunities to stop hiding out and avoiding yourself through blame-ridden thoughts or backing away from the pose.
Your thoughts will tell you that this teacher is crazy. They will say that holding a pose this long is militant. That because you're too old, too big, too weak, too injured, you just can't. That it's not safe.
You must learn to recognize what is actually not safe, and what is simply your defense against going into scary places and meeting yourself.
Instead of bracing against experiencing your emotions...soften. Lovingly and gently hold your own hand and whisper, "You can do this. Let's walk into the fire together." and then surrender to the emotions and let yourself be remade, healed.
Please believe me that I know what it's like to shake and think I can't possibly lunge any deeper. I can't possibly hold an arm balance any longer. I can't possibly move in a certain way or do a certain pose because it's "not safe."
I've found that all my versions of, "I can't" usually aren't true.
If you don't let your body move deeper into shapes that trigger painful or ecstatic feelings and instead back away, the emotions will stay locked inside you. And these emotions living inside you will tend to make certain muscles just scream when stretched.
The pose is not the cause of these emotions. You are.
It's not that you're getting angry because the teacher is an awful person for asking you to hold the pose. It's that whatever pose you're in is triggering the anger that already lives inside you. Probably because that pose is touching the physical place where you tend to hold your anger.
So learn how to breathe into it and meet it with compassion, moving toward it, not away from it.
This might sound like fierce and tough love. But it's not.
In order to truly meet yourself (as opposed to just overriding and pushing), it requires a softening in your body. A yield.
A place where you stop bracing against the pose and instead bring in compassion, surrender, and a willingness to ride the wave of emotion that lives inside your hip, shoulder, or gut, and stay with it until you make it to the other side---the place where the body has shaken, released, shed tears perhaps, and where your embodied presence can now rest with deep pleasure in the place you avoided just a moment ago.
This is SO MUCH MORE than exercise. This is healing. This is ecstasy.
To face yourself and clear out fear, rage, shame, and disempowerment in your body and allow surrender, trust, and pleasure is a deeply loving act.
Not only that, but as you learn how to soften and yield in an empowered way in your physical practice, you'll be able to bring that into relationship conflicts, sexual experiences, and the places where you don't want to let go of control.
From this practice, you can meet yourself over and over again.
It's why I show up to my mat almost everyday.
I hope this post gives you the courage to go a little deeper in your next class or to explore where your physical edge actually is.
Please, leave me a comment below and share your thoughts about this (somewhat controversial?) topic.
And as always, share on social media if this spoke to you.
Yep, I'm gonna say it...