I know I’m one of the more militant teachers at SHINE. I’m actually proud of how much I push my students. For an hour or so, once a week, we find ourselves in a very intense relationship. We both have expectations of each other. I tell them what I want them to do and I expect them to try their best to do it. When they feel struggle, I am expected to guide them through the fire. Sometimes it’s a mental or physical cue, sometimes touch. Sometimes it’s knowing when to shut my pie hole and give them space. Over the years I’ve become better at seeing which is needed.
In the end we each have a goal and like any relationship, they are not always the same. I ask for what I want, my students ask for what they want (usually mercy). There are dirty looks, stern words spoken, extreme emotions, fear, judgment and sometimes tears. Though this I stay true to what I want, but I also know it’s a push and pull of reading each other. The goal needs to a bit soft, moldable. In the end we need to both feel accomplished, like we were challenged, as well as heard. I have spent years developing the skills of this relationship. Staying true and asking for what I want with love, but a firm hand and knowing when it’s time to reshape a bit.
When it came to my attention the other day that I DO NOT apply this to my personal relationships, I was flattened.
My therapist looked me in the eye. Her lovely curls (which I am suuuper jealous of) fell down her shoulders and her brown eyes fixed on mine, “You lose yourself, Sarah. You don’t say what you need or want.”
As if my body wanted to drive home the point, in case I missed it, I felt my throat start to swell shut.
The next day I’m at SHINE. I teach boot camp on Wednesday nights, so I take Stacy’s Power 75 before my class. Let me say, Stacy was on Goddamn point. She challenged, my body accepted. When I needed to back off, she accepted. I felt safe and wobbly, mark of an amazing class.
Back bending came. What flexibility I have in my back, I’ve worked hard for and it isn’t much. But I do the work, up, down, up, down, up down. It’s the pose after backbending, Supta Baddha Konasana, Reclining Bound Angle. Feet together, knees wide. Hand on you heart, hand on your belly, reconnect your breath and your heart beat. This is where I struggle.
It’s here, in my class, I tell my students to actively control their breath. Make each inhale and exhale a beat longer. Feel your heart slow down as your breath slows down. You have the control. Not only do I believe they do, I know they do. I watch it happen time and time again.
Even though I know, I KNOW, this works, I fear that I do not have this control. Since I started practicing, until recently, I would not even attempt to touch my heart in this pose. It was too much to actively feel my heart in such a firy state. I ignore the rapid beats and put my arms overhead.
I’ve been making attempts at this pose. Honestly, I can only make it a beat or two before I’m overwhelmed and I default, arms over head. Gina once came over and Made me do it, which I love her for, but never on my own free will.
This class, I come down after my last backend. I hear Stacy’s sweet voice call Supta Baddha Konasana. I close my eyes and default. Before my hands even touch the wood floor I hear a friend in my head, “No matter how small, take a step toward your goal.”
The first step to saying what I feel, is feeling what I feel.
I feel my throat start to close.
Then I feel myself make a choice.
My right hand goes to my belly. My left hand places onto my chest. I feel my heart. I feel the irregular beat, I feel panic rise in my chest. I come back to breath, slow, ujjayi. The panic doesn’t stop.
In my therapist's’ office the day before I told her how this relationship thing was something that has come up for me before, many times in fact. “I can’t believe I’m still dealing with this shit!”
“Sarah,” she sighed, “it’s ALWAYS going to be there. What you need to do is recognize it and deal with it.”
Now here I am, in class, dealing with the same shit I’ve been dealing with since I started practicing. I decided to take a small step. I stayed. For the very first time, I kept my hand on my heart and felt it hit my chest until Stacy called the next asana.
Oh sweet Jesus, thank you… so uncomfortable.
It took me seven, SEVEN years to be able to hold my hand on my beating heart for 30 seconds. I giggle my way through the next few asanas. Partially because, how fucking ridiculous? And partly because I couldn’t contain my joy.
One awkward, wonderful, small step toward my goal.
I take a deep breath in, my throat feels fine.