Stalk Your Fear

Forrest Yoga is founded in self-healing through identifying and embracing fear. Similar to Iyengar’s emphasis on long posture holds, this style of yoga advises students to enter poses that are most unsettling and stay for as long as possible. Scary postures often include chest and hip openers, or inversions. When we are forced to be uncomfortable, the mind produces a slew of anxieties and remembers trauma from the past. The point is to sit through this discomfort in order to overcome and transform from covert impediments.

The science behind this formula points to psychogenic pain, which occurs when bodily symptoms result from your psychological state. For example, fear leads to tension, which leads to energy blockage, which can cause loss of sensation and muscle memory instillment. In this way, mental perceptions or emotions can become ingrained in the physical body, and actually perpetuate the psychological condition. Forrest Yoga asserts that you must stay with physical discomfort (face your fears) not only to ease bodily tension, but to uncover and transcend from underlying causes. This brave and confrontational approach to yoga is something that I need to embrace more in my personal practice.

Power vinyasa is what drew me to yoga. Nothing feels more victorious than laying in a pool of your own sweat after an hour or more of twisting and expanding in absolutely every way possible. The movement and synchronization with breath can make the process of extreme physical exertion actually enjoyable, like a dance- a sweaty, intense, power-packed series where all participants suffer together.

But the point of yoga is to eliminate suffering, and indeed with consistent practice it does subside. Going into the seventh year of practice, I’ve untapped what feels like boundless strength. All through muscular challenges and tests of endurance in class, my mind stays calm and neutral. However, I must admit that my aversion to other yoga styles impedes true progress.

To me, vinyasa is like the sun: if I could, I would make all the days longer and soak in warmth from dawn to dusk. But as always, true wisdom exists in polarities, and I am entirely unbalanced from avoiding slow, alignment-based yoga. By constantly indulging in a fast and expansive practice as I’m naturally inclined to do, I hit a wall and physically cannot practice the way I used to.

It began in February when my left hip refused to open. I powered through, thinking this malady will disappear as spontaneously as it arose. Several weeks later, I mysteriously sprained my right ankle. Similar to the first ailment, I just woke up one day and found that my body refused to operate as it normally did. After a couple weeks of hobbling through my regular routines, I decided that acupuncture would be a viable course of action. The acupuncturist informed me that I would feel tension in my right knee after treatment (even though he never touched it!), but that would diminish after several days. I never received an explanation for why, by he was right about the knee tension! Only it never went away, and neither did my other conditions.

Here I am, four months later with no improvement and no remedy in sight. I saw a Podiatrist, a Physical Therapist, and a Reiki Healer, but nobody had answers and nothing changed. I’ve realized that I need to change.

Vinyasa yoga is a great way to begin the practice. It’s highly dynamic and fast-paced, an athletic style of yoga which appeals to people in the same way that any form of exercise or physical fitness does. Like me, practitioners often become frustrated and impatient in slower, alignment-based classes like Iyengar and Forrest. Consequentially, facing that frustration, impatience and even anger is the point! Iyengar famously said, “the practice begins when you want to leave the posture.” Notwithstanding my detest for slow movement, I understood the value of these styles but still couldn’t deviate from the vinyasa way. Vinyasa, the sun, was warmth, light, and all things good, plus it allowed me to get a workout in with my zen sesh!

But these unexplained injuries mark the dawn of a new era… Now, I absolutely must change my habits. I must go to the fear!

In particular, of all the joints in my body, my hips have always been the most constricted. I have no problem touching my forehead to my ankles, but its almost impossible for me to sit with legs crossed. In half pigeon, I tend to feel extremely anxious, sometimes dizzy, and my heart begins to race. I want to scream, cry, and run away. THIS is where the magic happens. THIS is when I need to stay put, breathe full, and BE with the sensations instead of running away. THIS is the battle in which I might overcome pain and transcend beyond limitations. If I can brave and patient enough to free this energy….

I don’t know what will happen.

But I know that I need to try.

Where is your fear? What are your battles?

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