By Manvi Singh, RYT-500 September 2016
Most of us have experienced a time when no one showed up for us. Whether it was a party that started at 7PM and by 8PM, still no one was there, a friend said, “I’ll call you right back,” and didn’t call, or if no one comes to take your yoga class. Rather than sink into a downward emotional spiral in these moments, I believe it is possible for those of us who practice yoga to apply emotional and mental skills gained on the mat to pull ourselves out and up!
How to Apply Yoga Skills to Feeling Alone
One of the most helpful things I’ve learned from yoga is self-discipline. In a yoga class, specifically in the classical hatha style that I teach, the teacher directs the movement, and even if it’s challenging, we do our best. When the teacher says to move into a pose that’s tough, for example, boat pose in which arms are extended overhead, and hold it until our bodies are shaking and straining with effort, we don’t question it – we just do it. We do this in part because we trust and respect the teacher. We trust that they won’t lead us into getting an injury, and that they’ve laid out the sequence in a balanced way – so the pose and counterposes are all included. At the end of the class, we trust that what we practiced was yoga, yoking the consciousness to the soul.
Because of our faith in the teacher and our self-discipline to give our all to the pose, we might discover, happily, that we’re much more capable and strong than we thought we were. This is one of the reasons we as yoga teachers take our students to their “edge,” holding or doing more repetitions of the poses we know are challenging but not impossible; we want to show you that you are stronger than you give yourself credit for. We want to show the mind and ego that the body can do much more than it thinks, ultimately expanding the limits of what you think you can do. It is exhilarating to accomplish more than you thought you could! Without the teacher, you might never have pushed yourself as far.
Yoga philosophy also encourages control of the emotions. Rather than letting emotions run the show and dictate our every move, we work on reigning them in. In times when I might be experiencing anxiety or upset, my first step is to turn to this yoga teaching. It is a skill I’ve gained from years of yoga practice under teachers I respect: when they ask us to do certain poses that I am afraid of or I dread, I keep my mouth shut and do my best. I am aware of my feelings but I control them. It is as if I am in line at a store, and I accidentally spill all of the coins out of my wallet. Instead of making a fuss about picking them up and loudly telling everyone what happened, “THE ZIPPER BROKE, I’m so sorry, I’ve made such a mess! Please excuse me while I clean up,” I quickly and quietly pick them up without explanation to anyone.
In a yoga class and in my daily life, I see my emotions as these coins that can spontaneously fall out of my wallet no matter where I am or what I am doing. There is an automatic response that I don’t pretend to be “above” or “beyond.” I don’t believe that to be a “yoga person,” you need to stop having reactions. (In my experience, people who pretend they suddenly never get mad to put on a “spiritual” front end up not being very honest or authentic, and having random outbursts.)
I believe that being on this path means you need to continue to practice control over the reactions.
So when no one shows up, my prayer isn’t, “Why isn’t anyone here for me? This sucks,” but a prayer to my higher guidance, whom I trust, my personal yoga teacher, the highest version of me, “Please help me see what resources are available to me right now,” because I trust this teacher and I know that what I need is always there; it is only my negative emotions clouding my view.
Emotions as a Distraction
At a certain point on the spiritual path of yoga, the student meets themselves in higher form. It is the self-discipline that gets us there. Imagine you are on a hike, and you keep following the signs for the trail you want to be on, the “Higher Self” or the “Best Me” trail. Emotions are distracting paths, like “scenic overlook” points where you can see how far you’ve come, or other trails you could follow that lead you back to the same issues, or points along the way, you thought you were past already. If you stray off the trail you can always find your way back, but if you are committed to finding out what people are talking about when they say that you have a “Higher Self,” it is best to stop yourself from getting distracted.
“But he never called me back, no one loves me,” is not a thought on your path! It is a nagging distraction, like the troll under the bridge in the “Three Billy Goats Gruff” fairytale. You too can outsmart this sneaky troll by calling on your higher self, the best version of you. If you’ve experienced yourself from a spiritual place, ever come to feel your entire being, body and consciousness, dissolved in love or white light or complete peace, you know that you are capable of getting there again. If you’ve only experienced it one time, it wasn’t a fluke! If you feel that you’ve never gotten there, take a leap of faith, like you would with a yoga teacher. Trust that there is an entity you can call on for assistance. Focus on that entity, in any of its forms, an image of God perhaps or whatever makes you feel comforted, and put trust in that.
You Are Not Alone
When no one shows up, you are not alone. You are in the presence of you and all non-physical beings who love and support you. You are not needy, dependent, or forgotten. You are not cursed or doomed. Stop, take a deep breath, and drown out the negative voices and messages by asking, “Please help me see the resources that are available to me right now,” until you see what is. Many of us have harmful habits that we turn to when the negative commentary arises. Rather than listening to the troll, giving in to the negative emotions and thoughts, use your self-discipline and determination you’ve gained on your yoga mat to listen to yourself and reach for something better. You might find a strength you didn’t know you had.
Manvi Singh, RYT-500, founder of Grow and Heal Yoga (growandhealyoga.com) is a writer and yoga teacher based in San Diego, CA. As a teacher, she uses an intuitive whole-body approach that addresses mental, emotional, and physical issues through the practice of yoga. As a writer, she hopes to illuminate the ways that the physical practice of yoga can translate to improvement in other areas of daily life.