My secret little love affair...

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Four years ago I went to a yoga class for the first time. I started attending classes a few times a week and found that I enjoyed it. The breathing, the movement, and being in community with other people all doing yoga together. At that time, I couldn't tell you much about yoga except that I felt calm and peaceful after class. The start of my yoga journey also happened to coincide with the first time I decided to be sober in my adult life. Not only was I becoming sober, but I was also learning to come into my own body and be present in this world rather than my own fantasy world. So, in ways I didn't know at the time, I would need yoga as a tool on this journey.

Then, two years ago this January, I happened upon my very first yin class with Joella (of JEM Yoga in Duluth, MN). Vinyasa is a flow-based practice that moves one breath with one movement. In Yin, we hold each posture for one to five minutes.

I wasn't worried that we were holding poses longer, but all the deep breathing, relaxing muscles, and mindful movements, caused a reaction in my body- I would cry. In the beginning, I cried during every yin class. Each time I took to the mat, I found new realizations. I found I was able to address things I was holding onto that no longer worked for me. I felt clarity about what I wanted to do with my life. As I laid on my mat, tears streaming down my face, I acknowledged that they were not tears of sadness but tears shedding things that no longer served me. Tears of awakening! And after class, I felt great, like a layer had been shed from my skin.

I felt eager to return week after week because I wanted to see what would surface during the next class. I know, maybe I'm a glutton for punishment. I mean, who goes to yoga to see what kind of emotional things they can stir up and set free? Me!

Eventually, I started practicing at home on my own. It would be a half hour, then an hour or an hour and a half. I began to lose track of time in my practice. I came to feel that no matter how crazy life got, on my mat I knew that everything right then and there was okay. For a time, it was the only place in my life where I knew that everything would be ok. Sometimes, I still feel that way. Somehow that rectangular mat is a little bubble that protects me from life's craziness.

During a particularly difficult time, I felt lost for direction in my career, personal relationships, and life in general. I knew I needed to cultivate more self-love and trust in the unknown to move beyond my struggles. I knew my failed relationships of the past and difficulties in many aspects of life weren't due to other people as much as they were a result of my behavior. My lack of self-esteem, trust in myself, and belief in myself was ultimately the common denominator.

I can't dismiss that other people play a role in how life rolls out sometimes, but it's how I deal with those things that's my business. Not changing or fixing anyone else. I can only do me.

During this time, I would get on my yoga mat in extended child's pose in the mornings and again in the evenings, sometimes not for long, other times for much longer and it was my time and my way of talking with the Universal Creator. Child's pose always feels like a prayer pose to me. It's a surrender which is exactly what I felt I needed to do, surrender.

From child's pose, I would repeat these mantras to myself, "I love you. I trust you. I respect you. I will not abandon you. I will not betray you. I honor your past and where you are today. I hold open door of possibilities for all that is to come." Each line, one complete exhale, a whisper to myself. Each moment, surrender to knowing that I am not in charge of this life, but that I trust myself to do my best and I trust the universe to take care of me and to keep on going. Then I would ask for guidance and protection and the courage to lead my life from a place of love.

Yin practice is the way I am able to connect my body to my mind. It's my time to check in with myself and reconcile all the things happening in my brain. My breath is like an ocean wave. It's the ocean wave moving out to sea and crashing into the shore. In and out, mechanically, but without permission, it happens in a pattern, the breath like an ocean wave. With each inhale comes new life force, new energy and more fuel for the body. With each exhale, a gentle letting go of all that no longer serves me. I can begin to notice what I'm hanging onto in certain areas of my body. The exhale brings a settling into the pose a little bit more. The settling is a trust I am developing with my body that I can let it stretch a little deeper because it is safe to relax.

After practicing most days over the past two years, I can now fold into poses I didn't think I would ever be able to and now I can see how my body really fits itself. Like from a seated straddle (as pictured above) when I fold over one leg, the space from my forehead to my nose fits around my knee cap- a perfect fit. And in happy baby, when I grab the arches of my feet (which also fit my hands) and pull my knees towards my armpits, they also fit. It's not a mistake. It's a divine design that works for all of us when our bodies are healthy and are able to fold as they were meant to.

When I let go of all that I'm holding onto with the tension in my muscles and let go of the fight in my mind that doesn't want to feel all the feels, I come into this place of quiet love and acceptance. It's a secret little love affair with myself, a form of intimacy like no other. From the outside, no one knows and from the inside, it's a smile, a hug, and a knowing that what I need is already inside me.

Yin teaches me life's lessons. Like a metaphor for all the things that feel a little bit uncomfortable in life, that I don't really want to do, but have to do anyways. It's like easing into a yoga pose that I'll be holding for the next 3 minutes. I go into it and breathe, stay calm, and trust myself that I'll make the right decision when I need to. And knowing that I'll only be in a pose (or that season of life) for a short time. Everything changes, but I don't just run away when things are a little uncomfortable. I keep walking towards the difficult things, the new relationship, the job interview, the new business, whatever it is...and sometimes when I get out of my way and drop my ego, my expectations and my old hurts or habits, I find that my body already knows what to do. It is then that I can let go and exhale. I have to exhale all the way and get real empty to fill back up. The secret is that more was already inside me, I just didn't know it because I kept getting in my way.

It's all the lessons of life, the time to reconcile with myself about what I'm hanging onto, where I want to be going, what I'm running from. It's the internal struggle to live truthfully and have the courage not abandon myself when things get difficult. Yin is the magic of this humanness- the place between seduction and suffering where everything becomes clear. My secret love affair with myself.

~ Namaste

Jessica Karpinske is an Integrative Nutrition Health Coach and yoga and fitness instructor in Superior, WI. She teaches regular classes at the strength factory. Follow along on her adventures at www.rootedinwellness.com or on facebook “Rooted in wellness.” She is also a mean baker and often holds bake sales of GF, Vegan baked goodies. Thank you for your contribution Jessica, we love your presence in the Twin Ports wellness community!

Joella Miller