Yoga is a pathway to freedom. Understanding the self is the key to freedom, and yoga offers us a powerful vehicle to achieve that. However, there is no shortcut to achieving this. No mantra or breath that is going to deliver up your liberation. Quite simply you have to meet yourself head on, and then you have to do the work.
In modern times, Yoga has been packaged as stress relief, and a way to maintain health. In many ways it is touted as a way to deal with modern society, to maintain the status quo and our ability to cope with ever increasing demands. But if you go back to the roots of Yoga, it becomes clear that it is anything but a vehicle for the status quo. It is intended as a radical means of self-exploration of self, with the ultimate aim of achieving Moksha, or liberation.
Sitting with pain
Balance or harmony is the state in which we achieve freedom. What pulls us off balance are those unconscious traumas and patterns that repeatedly trip us up – causing negative spirals, illness or postural issues, triggering us to overreact, or draw on inappropriate coping methods.
So, if you’re a true Yoga seeker, then it is the subconscious that really requires examination. Of course, for most people this is inconceivable. Far from sitting in bliss, subconscious work means sitting with pain – identifying and acknowledging those memories and parts of yourself you wish didn’t exist. Owning your story and your trauma.
Doing the Work
And no matter how many times I think I’ve done the work, there is always an occasion where a trauma imprint is triggered, the mid frontal cortex goes off line, and I freak out. Recently, whilst meditating at a retreat, I found myself experiencing sorrow that I couldn’t even reconcile as being part of me. I’m pretty mellow and, whilst no positive thinker, I’m not prone to feeling sad. But this sorrow was very real and followed me home from the retreat, and began to grow in intensity.
It has taken me weeks of meditating on the feeling, and journaling, to begin to unravel it. Hours of just climbing into the uncomfortable feeling and trying to work out where it is coming from. Sometimes, it’s obvious. And other times, as with this sorrow, not so hard to pin down. A good place to start is to locate where in the body you feel it. If you are unable to determine the cause, try allocating it a colour or a shape, and work with that as something tangible, to manipulate and change.
Eventually, my sorrow melted into memories, initially seemingly random, then I began to see a common theme running through them all. It was a trauma imprint I thought I had dealt with long ago, buried very deeply around my solar plexus. As I meditated on it, I felt the knots loosen and there was a cascade of memories and images that, hopefully, seemed to signify its release.
There is no freedom hack
This is a difficult thing to teach in a Yoga class. The vast majority of people don’t want to sit with their sorrow and misery for hours. They prefer the ease of stretching and the re-calibration of the nervous system via the breath. Most people spend a lot of effort numbing their pain, and avoiding anything that makes them feel uncomfortable. But if you are serious about your practice, I would urge you to do the work. To see pain and discomfort as gifts, the real route to liberation and not something to be avoided or suppressed. There is no hack for this sort of thing. You have to face your self, endure the suffering, accept the truth, and ultimately own your self.