I’m from a large, Brooklyn born Italian family. Food and emotions flow in abundance; households are enveloped in voices and affection that are in direct proportion to the intensity of those emotions. I always tease my mother that whether there’s a horrific tragedy or a severe weather advisory in the news, it will require a conversation with one of her sisters. This will result in dramatic hand gestures and the inevitable phrase “what a sin!” will be loudly heard with true emotion behind it.
We are criers. We are yellers. We are demonstrative lovers. We are… well, dramatic.
Since beginning my spiritual journey through yoga and meditation, I’ve begun to examine my own behavior and response to stress.
One of my greatest emotional accomplishments during my Bikram yoga practice is achieving the “no drama” policy in the hot room. The instructors guide us to “look relaxed, even if we don’t feel relaxed.” As yogis, executing and coming out of a challenging posture while our heart races can bring up all kinds of reactions and emotions. The models I’ve had throughout my life have shown me to emote what I’m feeling at the precise moment that I’m feeling it.
On our mat, however, we are taught to breathe through whatever comes up for us. I still marvel at my ability, especially as a past anxiety sufferer, to breathe through the intensity of the hot room.
As I lift from awkward pose on my own honest 10 count, as my legs tremble and sweat drips from my fingertips as they extend out, biceps tight- I breathe. Once the posture has ended, I come back to stillness, and take a breath while letting go of whatever I was feeling both emotionally and physically. All of this is done in a room that is set to a temperature of 105 degrees. Cultivating the discipline of not reacting is a true accomplishment.
I have learned not to react during my practice.
My goal is to incorporate my yoga practice off of my mat, as well. I set my daily intention to practice breathing through my reactions and emotions during life’s challenging moments just as I do during challenging postures.
In reality, do I practice stillness in the difficult moments of my life? Sometimes.
Sometimes, I don’t.
At times, I find myself naturally raising my voice, using hand gestures to express myself in the most dramatic fashion, and reacting to my emotions almost instantly. I’m a highly sensitive person, and while I try not to take things personally- I do. At times, I take things very personally and feel hurt rather easily by some standards.
Yoga has helped me react this way less often, but these reactions still come.
Through books, various meditation workshops, and yoga retreats, I’ve uncovered the importance of authenticity and self-acceptance.
We are all from different tribes, and each one of us complex beings. We maintain multiple “selves.” There is the person we are while with our family, who we are in the workplace, with an old friend…
If we pay attention and bring awareness into uncovering the deepest part of our being, and accepting who we find there- we can then embrace our true authentic selves.
I’ve always loved the beautifully practical teachings of Pema Chodron. She teaches how to use painful emotions to cultivate wisdom and compassion by not running away from our true selves.
Trying to achieve a cookie cutter yogi personality is not allowing for our own authenticity. Trying to sustain a certain role, in fact, inhibits us and creates an obstacle in achieving authenticity. We will always fall short because we are not truly experiencing what is internally present.
As we cultivate our yoga practice of stillness and breathing through our discomfort, it’s important to also breathe through the awareness that by resisting our true selves, we are not compassionately accepting our own humanity.
I’m learning to allow my dramatic, demonstrative side flow freely without self- judgment. My roots are a deep and sacred piece of my heart, and I will allow for my own authenticity to emerge.
“One must know oneself as one is, not as one wishes to be, which is merely an ideal and therefore fictitious, unreal; it is only that which is that can be transformed, not that which you wish to be.” J. Krishnamurti
Through my commitment to yoga, I still set the intention to bring peaceful union to my physical, mental, and spiritual practice. I do this with the desire to be open, genuine, and courageous in accepting my true self. This will only create a deeper relationship with others, as well as, allow for a deeper confidence inside myself. Let’s try, with a sense of confidence and purpose, to be a little bit more authentic today.