Opening to Yoga: I Wish You Discomfort

Nicole Markardt
Opening to Yoga: I Wish You Discomfort

“The breezes at dawn have secrets to tell you

Don't go back to sleep!

You must ask for what you really want.

Don't go back to sleep!

People are going back and forth

across the doorsill where the two worlds touch,

The door is round and open

Don't go back to sleep!” ~Rumi

This Sufi poem has always been a favorite of mine. I discovered the works of Rumi when I was much younger, and this poem instantly captured me. Looking back, it almost seems as if it was a foreshadowing to the path that would eventually reveal itself to me. Rumi’s words are metaphorical in nature and refer to those transitory moments of sheer presence and deeper understanding; a flicker of light that opens our heart fully. 

This opening may last for a moment, for hours, maybe even weeks, but eventually a different state of awareness takes hold and our reality shifts back to its former state. We essentially go back to sleep.

While You Were Sleeping

Beginning a yoga practice may seem like a pleasant endeavor at first — a nice way to open the body, stretch it out a bit, uncover an inner calm...

Over time, the more we focus on our practice, we come to realize that that we are beginning to open in ways that take us by surprise. We find out just how deep we've stored our lives inside of our bodies, inside of our joints, and deep inside of our hearts.

Opening to our deeper selves is not a comfortable process. Those like me, who have found themselves a sniffling mess in Pigeon Pose, or felt tears roll down the side of their cheeks during Savasana, realize just how much our bodies and minds are one. Our minds are not a separate entity from our physical body.   

All of the "you're not good enough", the "you're too sensitive",  the you’re-too-anythings, the ones we've told ourselves and the ones we've swallowed down along with tears from others... Where do they go?

Our bodies are like computers. They store everything. Memories, fights with our loved ones and fights with those who do not love us at all, inner criticism, hearing words that dim the shining light in our hearts, speaking words like these to others.

All are stored inside of us. They are sneaky. Just when we think that we've slayed them, they seep through a crevice in our mind when we least expect it. The "you're not good enoughs" find their voice once more.

Yoga Practice is an Open Door

Yoga practice does not ask you to speak your truth. It does not sit across from you with an understanding gaze and offer compassion.

No. Yoga practice awakens those voices and works them through your body until you awaken to the reality that they are part of you. We cannot be in resistance to what is part of our being. We may have begun our practice with the intention of getting a workout, until we realize that yoga is a work-in.

With tight hips and shaky balance we open. All that we’ve stored has made our joints rigid and this rigidity has convinced our heart that it is protected.

We slowly open.

We work through to the depths of our core, strengthening it until it aids in the acceptance of all that we've stored inside of us. What does it mean to have a strong core? It means to strengthen our center of gravity, to root ourselves down, to lift up and to engage what is loose; our self respect, our personal boundaries, our self love.

We strengthen our core and we open. Layer upon layer of healing occurs over time. Yoga never ends.

There is so much to open. Each posture, even ones that seem simple, we come to find new depths with each practice.

The Door is Round and Open

When I first began practicing yoga, hip openers were very difficult for me. We (especially women) store our emotions in our hips. Hip openers engage the sacral chakra, which when out of balance manifests as self-esteem issues. I can now get into Pigeon Pose with no difficulty and actually enjoy extended time in this posture — forehead pressed to the floor, arms extended.

Just recently, I practiced with an instructor that brought us into a deeper variation of Cow Face Pose.

I found myself feeling very tight, deeply emotional, as if I’d never done hip openers before. In this moment, it was clear that I need to go deeper still — deeper in my physical body, because healing is still occurring in my emotional body. We continually peel back layers of ourselves.

Just when we think we've opened to a person, a situation, opened to forgiveness — another layer reveals itself. Yoga practice is a journey through discomfort. An ancient practice intended to prepare the body for meditation, yoga is truly the practice of becoming aware of our deepest nature; the clearing away of all that holds us back from our potential.

During those moments on my mat, I vow to not go back to sleep. Sometimes I stay awake for a long time. Other times just for the car ride home. I always know that my practice awaits.