I have very specific emotions and thoughts regarding dragon pose.
It can be summed up in one word: Nemesis.
Here I am, just living my best life, and then dragon pose comes along and tears me into unrecognizable pieces.
I'm just over here feeling joyful as I see all of the changes leaves, and then dragon pose reminds me that there is so much pain in this world.
I'll be having a great day teaching middle school, inspiring the next generation, and then dragon pose crashes into me and I question my worth as a teacher.
If you think I am being dramatic, then you are not familiar with dragon pose.
Dragon pose is a yin yoga pose that focuses on stretching the hips, hip flexors, quadriceps, and the groin. As a yin yoga pose, you hold it for 3-4 minutes...or an eternity, whichever comes first.
Dragon pose, for me, epitomizes the entire philosophy behind yin yoga. Deep, long holds help the fascia to release tension. This helps the physical body to feel more supple and flexible. The physical body, however, is just the beginning when it comes to yin yoga. While the physical body may feel uncomfortable during yin yoga poses, it is the emotional and mental reactions to the discomfort where awareness and insight occurs.
What are the thoughts you have in daily life when difficult situations arise?
What are the emotions that you push down in daily life when situations become uncomfortable?
These are the questions that yin yoga answers. By nudging ourselves to be still while discomfort is happening, the awareness of our thoughts and emotions come to the surface. In real life, when discomfort happens, we simply move or change direction so that we cover it up or we quickly ignore it by moving onto the next thing. We are not even aware of the thoughts and emotions we are having.
Enter yin yoga.
My experience with dragon pose is very similar every time. I set myself up carefully and drop into the pose. I feel some intense physical sensations and then the circus begins:
Me (10 seconds into the pose): How much longer do I need to be here?
Peaceful Me: Everything is ok. Take a breathe. It's going to be a while.
Me (30 seconds into the pose): I really think this is long enough. Will I even benefit from being here longer?
Peaceful Me: Relax your hip flexors. Drop your neck. You're still ok.
Me (45 seconds into the pose): I'm going to get out. No one will even know. No one will even care. I'm allowed to get out of this post. You can't make me stay.
Peaceful Me: You're right. You can get out if you want. Completely up to you. Go ahead, move into child's pose.
Me: Don't tell me what to do! I'll stay here if I want to stay here. I can stay here. It's not a big deal. I can handle it.
Peaceful Me: Yes, you can.
Me (time has lost all meaning): <internally crying> I hate you.
Somewhere around the halfway point, the "me" gives up. My muscles do relax a bit more. I stop tensing around the discomfort. This is the magical point when unconscious emotions and thoughts suddenly float to the surface. While in this pose, for example, I have felt deep sadness. I have cried but not known why. Negative thoughts that I did not know I was harboring have popped into my mind.
- "What makes you think you're good enough?"
- "I can't do this anymore."
- "I'm tired of trying so hard."
While those thoughts could apply to the physical pose, more likely they apply to areas of my life where I need to release tension.
As the breathe slows and the muscles relax, these emotions and thoughts move as if in slow motion. It is much easier to "catch" them. Once you do, Peaceful Me has an opportunity to choose. Do I keep this thought or do I choose to discard it? If it is an old thought - perhaps it was said to me by someone in my past or perhaps I even carried this from a past life - I simply have to acknowledge it. Then, Peaceful Me, who is much stronger and firmer than I ever knew, declares that it is no longer welcome here. It must leave.
As yoga philosophy tells us, it is when we feel something fully that it is then able to leave us. Yin yoga provides this template for us. Discovering hidden emotions and thoughts is powerful and enlightening. After the heaviness shifts, it leaves space that can be filled with our goodness and light.
Dragon pose fills me with trepidation because I know I will be facing my shadows upon entering. However, I keep coming back because I know the more I integrate my shadows, the more whole I become. I know that as layers lift off of me, my light can shine brighter.
Dramatic? Perhaps. Nemesis? For sure. Worth it. You bet.
(Starting this week, I will be teaching a yoga class that incorporate yin yoga into it through Folly Provision Company. Wednesdays at 6 p.m. (eastern time). Release & Refill.)