Whenever I come back to yoga after being away for a while, it is fairly emotional. And by emotional, I mean that during the final meditation/relaxation part, shavasana, I usually cry. Shavasana comes at the end of yoga and it’s the meditation that all of the twisting and stretching and holding and breathing prepares us for. It’s the time of the quieting of the body after all of the work and it’s during this time that my body most clearly is able to relax. Which is the point.
Anyway, when I’ve been away from yoga for any amount of time, that shavasana is the time when all the emotions that have built up in my body over the time away come out in the form of tears. The first time I ever did yoga I cried for three shavasanas in a row. Having found yoga in Brazil, after nearly two years away from it, it took probably ten classes for me to stop crying during shavasana.
Let me clear one thing up: they’re not tears of sadness. I don’t expect them, I don’t prepare for them, I don’t associate sadness or misery with yoga. It’s just that the body holds our emotions in weird places (your back hurts? feeling stressed out? you see the connection) and so all the yoga works its magic and my emotions squeeze up out of my body and come out during shavasana. When I do yoga consistently, I’m like a tube or a funnel or a ray: energy and emotions come in and flow out and I’m able to deal with them easily. But when I miss yoga for any time, like when I’m traveling for instance, the emotions get trapped and stuck. So when I return to yoga, I have extra stuff to work through and the emotions get worked out through stretching and breathing. It’s pretty powerful stuff.
Anyway, because I was traveling for the past 10 days, I wasn’t able to attend class. This meant, and I expected, I would be a little uncomfortable because I had some extra energy to work through. I couldn’t quite relax. I couldn’t get my body to move the way it needed to, and although it felt really great to stretch, something was blocking my full participation. My teacher, Pedro, who I will now affectionally call Pedro of the Gods, saw something wasn’t right and so he laid his hands upon my back and stretched me out, rotated and cracked my shoulders, and helped to work the emotions out of the places I’d stored them over the past week and a half.
Later, while I was upside-down, Pedro of the Gods put his finger on my forehead and told me to relax it. He reached up and unflexed my toes which stuck out from my feet as if they were made of stumpy steel rods. When I saw that even my toes were stressed, I knew then even while I was upside-down, that shavasana would be a doozy.
And it was. So much so that I felt a pain in my back, almost as if I were lying on a softball and it was pressed against my spine. It felt like there was something there, some wave of solid emotion that absolutely prevented me from even lying down on my back. I kept arching it because I could not bear the pain of lying down. Even Pedro saw I was having difficulty during the most relaxing part of the session, so he came over, pushed my shoulders down and snapped my neck after which, seconds later, I burst into tears and the softball of emotions melted. Literally, it melted. Like it was a snowball and we were lying on the beach. The tears gathered in my eyes and my back melted towards the earth, after which my arms felt heavy, my shoulders connecting to the floor completely, even my lumbar meeting the floor.
Finally, after the final word, another teacher, Berti, began singing Happy Birthday to me, and the whole class joined in. It was a beautiful, beautiful moment and I was feeling so good and back to normal that even in the dark of the classroom I’m sure it was obvious I was blushing. I got hugs and kisses from everyone in class and then ate a helping of homemade doce de goiaba e figo (guava and fig sweets—kind of like a jelly, but not.) When I gave Pedro a hug, his embrace snapped all of my vertebrae, opening up space, releasing even more and making me feel even better.
When I become a yoga instructor, I’m definitely going to use my hands to help my students. I believe so strongly in touch as a form of instruction and I’m so thankful for hands that know what they’re doing, that can help and heal. Needless to say, I feel like a different person. Today’s yoga class was the perfect birthday present.