I am not a yogi. I can do like, max 4 breaths in downward dog before my arms start to tap out. I can’t shift my body into tons of positions( all of which I’ve learned almost solely from watching yoga on YouTube instead of going to class, because I’m intimidated ). And I’m bad at mindfulness, I can’t tell you the last day I let myself fall asleep without a combination of melatonin and Netflix so that I can ensure I’m not going to be alone with my thinks for too long.
But I had a rough winter. Out of nowhere I was having anxiety and depression supposes I hadn’t dealt with in a similar intensity for a decade. Nothing “happened” — I have a great undertaking, I have a lot of people who inexplicably care about me enough to listen to me cry on the phone for however long I want, there’s been no changes in my health or relationship status. Every exterior thing in my life was the same as it had been during some of the best periods in my life, but happiness only took a sudden nosedive.
I’d been crying too much and my therapist wasn’t really helping. I was on the verge of going to see my regular MD to go on anti-depressants, which I’m pretty opposed to, but understand the value of as a departure point when things are going downhill and you can’t seem to right yourself. I spent a lot of time on the phone with my insurance company arguing about whether I could go back to an eating disorder program I’d previously gone through, which helped a lot at the time.( They won’t encompass it, they’re full of shit, our health care system is so fucked up, blah blah blah ).
This is how I found myself in a automobile making an nearly six hour trek to a camp near the Minnesota-Canadian border with an acquaintance who told me about a yoga retreat she guessed I’d love. I knew most of the people running would be really into yoga and I’d probably feel stupid a lot, but I was willing to try anything to feel better.
Luckily for me though this yoga retreat consist almost entirely of pretty dedicated yogis( a core group were in a yoga studies course that costs$ 2k and includes the retreat ), it was planned to be pretty lite on actual yoga. We holed up in beautiful little cabins with 5-6 strangers each( like summer camp! something I actually good at) and would attend a conference every morning and afternoon which consisted of an hour of yogi teachings, an hour of yoga practice, and an hour of writing this report exercises.
I believed there would be tons of time leftover from only 6 hours of planned activities each day and planned to ski and hike and read a bunch of books — but it turns out 2 hours of yoga and 4 hours of using your brain to think about your life is depleting !!! I went to bed at 9:30 every day and woke up around 7:30.
I stimulated myself lots of yogi snacks that looked like this 😛 TAGEND
There was also a lot of crying !!!! I cried constantly on this trip-up. I cried at first circle hour when we had to share our reason for coming over here and I had to talk about what a mental ward reject I felt like lately. I cried during yoga practice when I felt dumb for not being able to do anything right. I cried during writing exercisings when we had to do highly bleak( but helpful !) stuff like write our eulogies as if we died right now and how our failure to achieve our dharma( the purpose you’re alive to fulfill) has affected our friends, households, and ourselves. Fun stuff! I also cried back at my cabin as I bonded with my cabin-mates and explained things about myself like how I dislike that I’m always crying.
My short lived irl yoga career started and aimed at special yoga class for people with cravings that was recommended to me by my eating disorder group( spoiler alert: each person on countries around the world has addictions and should go to addiction yoga ). People cried in that class all the time and the instructor would smiling knowingly and say’ your issues live in your tissues .’ But less people seemed to be crying in these class. Most people were sweating in the glisten route merely yogis can sweat. Or like, pilates mommies after pilates class as they go to get their cold-pressed juice and gossip with the other pilates mommies.( My life dream is to be a pilates mom ).
But people on this retreat weren’t really crying, only gracefully holding positions in noble silence.
I did hear lots of people get vulnerable, though, which is always unbelievably helpful. I’m the worst at insuring something that’s great about someone’s life and assuming their whole life is incredible while mine is like, trudging along. I always forget to run it through the filter of” how does my life look from the outside ?” and remember that we all stimulate tradeoffs and we all have things that seem good to others.
I get up from one conference and walked back to our cabin alone so I could seethe quietly and scream’ the issue was BULLSHIT’ over and over in my head. I was skeptical from the beginning because there is a lot of money to be made in telling people you can change their lives for the better. Overall, we’re a pretty unhappy culture and we’re all holding our collective breath for a magical pill that’s going to take all our existential pain away. But I went home and read more from the book we were supposed to read and tried to open my intellect and open my heart and remember that nothing was going to me at the very worst. Everything could only assistance, even if I afterwards realise it was made up. Who cares if it did the trick.
So I did all the work we were supposed to do, even if sometimes I did it as an angry skeptic who guesses perhaps the whole thing is set up by grifters.
I expected to feel something because I’m a sensitive person and things set up to induce you feel something usually work on me( have you not read about all the shout? ^^^). But I didn’t expect to have the kind of moments I had after a particularly tense afternoon where I had to list out all my negative behaviours and work on figuring out the unconscious passions that obliged me to act this style.( Example would be,” my desire to avoid or immediately quell bad feelings motivates me to avoid situations where I am alone with my thoughts by constantly listening to music/ engaging with text/ scrolling through my phone like a deranged teen daughter in a movie written by someone who doesn’t actually know what teen daughters are like ). But I put some things together and as someone who always likes a nice juicy explanation, understanding the “why” of some of the thoughts and behaviours that had made my winter so rough felt good, productive. There was something I could work with here.
On the last night we drove to an even more remote location to go into a dingy, ancient sauna. There were like, 15 naked females packed into a tiny, hot space. Everyone was laughing in the easy way women laugh when men aren’t around. It was relaxing as hell.
We all sat in there as long as we could until we were dripping sweat and then one by one or in pairs we ran out the door and jumped into a square pit that had been carved into the frozen lagoon. It wasn’t actually the plunge in below freezing temperature that was scary, it was the way you couldn’t actually ensure what you were jumping into — the unknown abyss. But you did it because everyone else was laughing and screaming and doing it. And it was once you surfaced and felt so.
It was incredible because women are unbelievable and women’s bodies are unbelievable and there’s nothing like being in a room full of happy naked females to recollect how much you think there’s a kind of sorcery to being alive.( Men are great too, men’ bodies are great too, blah blah blah run read a male novelist talk about this, I’m not here for that purpose right now ). I can’t remember if I cried and I don’t know how to tell with all the different kinds of wetness that were everywhere.
In our last conference on the morning “weve all” going to head home I struggled through our practise per usual, but we did a very long( perhaps 30 minutes) meditation and I enjoyed it! And my intellect didn’t wander away to think about how awful I guess I am! I felt chill and soothe and enjoyed imagining a little almond of fire inside my navel like the instructor told me to. It was mid-morning so all this hot sunlight was coming in through the windows and onto my closed eyes and I kept feigning I was so good at meditation that I was stimulating the whole room hot.
We circled up and talked about what we learned over the course of the retreat. I watched how gracefully everyone get up to retrieve their carefully preferred sacred objects from the alter at the front of the room and then felt disconcerted when I rolled around and walked over to get the bougie as hell David Yurman ring I’d decided to use.( No one said anything, but this is not a very yogi thing to do ).
I told everyone I’d learned that there could be space between me and my problems. I didn’t have to feel like I was in a mania simply because there was some unhappiness or dis-ease bubbling below my surface. I could acknowledge that and work on it without it being consumed by it. Which is true. I think you have to work a lot( and like, daily) to keep a buffer between the way you feel and your resting emotional state, but it can definitely be done.
We namaste-d and I went back to my cabin and cried and hugged the strangers I’d been living with because they weren’t strangers anymore. All I want in my entire life is to be as honest and for people to be as honest with me as we all were with each other. Life necessitates small talk. But I know I’m not the only one who wished it also necessitated deep talk at any regular interval. I’m starving in my daily life for this.
I came home and I got a scissor and videotape and wrote out my and taped it on my door and I wrote out my and videotapeed it on my fridge. I did before bed and again in the morning. The next day, back at work, I sat itching at the sunlight “re coming out”. I closed my laptop and walked around a pond. I went to bed without my phone and without melatonin. I woke up this morning and felt good and meditated anyway.
I’m not saying I’m fixed( fun fact: I’m not !!) or healed or anything. But I got some good medicine. I think if I did yoga and meditated daily I would feel better daily. I worry about it because I am worried about tricking myself into thinking something is a magical pill — and a good indicator for that is that you have to do it all the time in order for it to work . But perhaps — and this is a working hypothesis — instead of worrying I am being tricked by a medicine you take once and then are magically healed by, I can consider that gardens require upkeep. Fallible human being require maintenance. There is weeding and watering to be done every day and there’s never a point where you are done working and your garden abruptly takes care of itself.
Maybe I am a shitty little garden whose gardener guessed gardening books were bullshit, I don’t know!
But it feels good to feel better, even if all I’m getting is a short vacation. It’s worth being embarrassed because you can’t press your palms into your mat in forward fold and you’re not doing the wheel right. I don’t know if all those other yogis brains are better than mine, calmer and full of self-love and adoption. I wouldn’t be surprised if they were. Checking in does that to you, you find stuff, you figure out how to fixing it if you try long enough. I’m hoping.