I had a really hard day. One of those days when you work so much that your eyes burn and leak liquid exhaustion. Then it ended with an argument with Josh, my husband, and he slept on the couch. When we are upset we don’t hold it inside and ferment our feelings; no, our method is always right up and out of us, and that can be like gun fire sometimes. Yes, it was a really crappy day, to say the least.
The energy of the next day had to unwind itself from the coils of the day before so it felt stiff. Although work demands were less and the schedule was a bit more pliable and our argument was mended. It felt tasking to release the tension that had been held.
So I went to a yoga session and the teacher was new. She taught the class different than the power yoga flow that I was expecting.
She started so slowly. With extended Savasana. We hardly ever stood upright onto the mat, lying down the majority of the time with simple movements; with simple postures. It was so slow that I started to feel anxious. There was no burn, no sweat, no challenge, no flow… I began to think that maybe I should go home and do a work-out video online afterwards. I was Concerned that it wasn’t going to be enough work for my body.
What I was missing at first, was the whole point of what she was leading us into…
I spent a few days away at Orcas Island in the Puget Sound just last week. It was our annual trip that my husband and I take in honor of our anniversary. We go somewhere new every year. But the last few years we have visited a new island within the Puget Sound. I have nicknames for each island… Whidby Island, is “The Island of Serendipity.” San Juan Island, is “The Island of Activation.” And Orcas Island, is “The Island of Mystery.”
While on our mini vacation at Orcas Island we decided to get massage therapy at a nearby spa. This year we added massage and chiropractic care into our employees benefits, and I was just setting up one of our employees with a massage therapy appointment before we had left for our trip. I went back and forth as to whether we should spend any of our time getting a massage for ourselves. It’s so much easier to give this gift to someone else than it is to take the time, and to allow our own selves to enjoy the same treatment that we offer.
We realized though that we needed it too. So we booked the appointment. We hadn’t gone to get a massage in at least 6 years. It had been a while. The night before we searched google for all of the awkward questions like, “Do you wear underwear when you get a massage?” Seriously!! It’s hilarious, I know! But the search led to so many awkward stories on the massage table. The verdict was to do what you want to do, we both wore underwear under the sheets. Prude?! I guess. Oh well!
Massage therapy create miracles though. It is the slow working of loosening and literally removing the tension that exists within the held spaces of our muscles. It is a slow process that takes time and after a while you give into the rest and begin to relax, and I nearly fell asleep. It was a healing experience.
Afterwards we chatted with the massage therapists a bit and they shared their experiences of trying to get people to relax.
“Lawyers!!” my masseuse explained, “Lawyers, have the hardest time. When I let go of their heads while massaging their necks, they literally continue to hold their head up, tense the entire time.”
They both went onto to explain that learning to relax is an art. And it takes practice for a lot of people to actually relax their bodies.
I have experienced this all over the place in life. We are taught to work hard and get results from the pain. To the point that in our society the art of rest. The art of knowing when to be still. The art of relaxation, is often undermined by buzzing thoughts of what needs to get done after you “rest”. Or pushed into a category as least important.
In my personal experience, I would say as a general rule in our society, personal rest and self-care is far too often at the very end of our priorities.
As I laid there lifting my legs while keeping my core flat to the floor. Wondering when the challenge of yoga balance and posture flow will take place. I heard her say again, “Don’t go into the pain…”
As she was saying those words, I was tightening all of my muscles and trying super hard to make my body work hard, to create resistance, to create pain. Because remember, “no pain, no gain.” Right?
Then we grabbed our resistance bands. Thinking we were really going to get into it now…and yet we remained on our backs on the floor, lifting and stretching our legs, gently and slowly using the bands. She then echoed her words into the room again…”Don’t go into pain…”
The second time her words really hit. I literally felt my body sink into the floor and relax. It was as if her direction allowed me to give myself permission to relax. It was not about pushing myself. The whole reason I went to yoga was to release tension and this class was the very gift that I needed, yet for half of the session I fought and resisted the gift.
“Don’t go into the pain…” her words reverberated into my mind. So much meaning there!
Her words calling us to not go into pain, was counter intuitive. She wasn’t asking us to work hard in that moment to get results. She was asking us to stretch, to breathe, to meditate, to rest. She was calling us all into our own healing therapy.
I let myself breathe deeply within, exhaling freely. I said yes to her simple movements and allowed myself to meditate on life and rest within the gift of learning to relax.
Certainly there is a time for pain. It is true that the fire we go through in life shapes us into who we are. But sometimes I think we put ourselves in the fire when we don’t need to be. I think we get really good at stepping into the fire. I think we are taught to face the fire all the time. But in this moment, it wasn’t fire that I needed, it was water and earth. It was fluidity and grounding.
Sometimes we need to remind ourselves, “Don’t go into the pain…” because the act of rest then opens our senses to unfold, slowly massaging out the layers of pain that need to be released from the tension held within. Sometimes it takes a quiet space to then allow the pain to be regurgitated and recycled into something new of beauty into our world.
Within our pain exists great opportunity for joy and rest and peace.