Following your heart and why yoga poses mean nothing

“Follow your heart!”

How many times have you heard that in your life? I’m guessing an annoying amount. This is the choice phrase for people who don’t know what else to say when giving advice. In reality it’s the best advice anyone can give, but the way in which it’s thrown around like it’s something that’s really easy to do is why we roll our eyes every time we hear it now.

Following your heart is extremely difficult. It’s not a one-step process. First off, you’ve gotta accept the fact that you do in fact have a heart, and that it is wise. Then, you must get quiet enough to hear what it’s saying. Most of us get tripped up here, because living in the city, past experiences, day to day duties, and emotions can be so loud that the heart gets drowned out. If we can actually hear what the heart is saying, we must translate what that means. Sometimes the message will be clear, other times the heart will say some crazy shit that doesn’t make sense to our head. So we have to stay quiet, and listen until we understand. If we get this far in the process, hell yeah, and now the real work begins–we must trust the message so much that doing anything but following your heart will feel really shitty.

This is yoga. Yoga is this process of removing, listening, deciphering, trusting, and acting. Yoga helps us follow our hearts in a world that sometimes encourages us not to. When I first started practicing yoga, I always wondered what downward facing dog, backbends, twists, and headstands had to do with the process of following your heart. When I tell my students what the goal of yoga actually is, they have the same question–what do yoga poses have to do with any of it?

Well, not much.

The reason we practice yoga poses is to gain physically health, because it is easier to go about the process of following your heart when you are feeling well and are physically strong. But could one be healthy without ever doing warrior 2? Yes of course. There are many ways to do this.

We do have to stretch our muscles and connective tissue in order to have physical health. So if you’re a healthy person who gets healthy in a way other than yoga, you’ll probably still run into some yoga poses at some point.

Don’t get me wrong–modern day yoga poses are fun, important, and their benefits are vast. But the next time you feel like a failure because you can’t do a handstand, just remember that it has nothing to do with being a happy, honest, following your heart kind of person.

Have a good day everyone. I teach yin today at 3:30 at Square One Yoga Collective, hope to see you there!

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I stand beside the boulder. That line is beautiful, I say. There is a crack, a seam, ripping through the right side of its face. It stands proud, screams at you, beating fists on chest. I exist! It yells. The rock wears the crack like a scar. It was all just too much. The pressure, the wind, the heat, movement, existence. Too much. It cracked. Crumbled. Fell apart. And it is one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen.

When I climb, I seek the rock’s imperfections and study them. How do I move, how do I cha-cha with the damaged parts of this face? I celebrate flaw. I hope for more. I think it’s beautiful. Thank God all rocks aren’t perfectly smooth, it would make climbing impossible.

My practice is to do this with people. To see their imperfections, all of their cracks and crimps and huecos and deep pockets, some of which may be still be soft, young, and tender to the touch because of lack of time. To see these things as beautiful, to see these things as something to hold on to, something to pull on. Get closer.

We must practice doing this with ourselves. To study the places of weakness, of cracking, of damage. To not see these imperfections as bad, but as something we can grip. Something to help us climb.

Sometimes these blemishes will be sharp. You will lose skin and probably bleed as you touch, as you squeeze, as you trust it with your weight. It will hurt.

I hit the rock with the palm of my hand a few times and listen. You can hear when it’s hollow. Do not hold on to these spots. They are not ready, they are too vulnerable. Choose a different place to pull. It may be damaged, but it will be strong.

Our hollow places, the parts of us that are scarred and cracked from loss are not empty. It is negative space. We must not only touch these places, but grip them. Move our fingers on their surface and shift our weight until it becomes comfortable or we can accept that it’s going to hurt for a minute. And then celebrate, for they are helping us move.