Those of you who know me well, realize I’m a bundle of contradictions. After all, one of my favorite quotes—that foreshadowed many later internal struggles—since reading “Song of Myself” in high school remains, “Do I contradict myself? / Very well then I contradict myself, / (I am large, I contain multitudes.)” (Whitman). So, in my first blog post with Urban Yoga, it feels necessary to introduce myself as someone who continues variously to struggle with and to embrace all the incongruities that make me who I am at the simplest and most complex levels.
Simple: I detest mushrooms (and almost literally vomited eating one at a birthday party last weekend) but devour olives (every EVERY chance I get). Don’t black olives look, feel and taste like mushrooms? Often, yes. I do not understand this contradiction of aversion and affinity, but it’s real and I embrace it.
Complex: I honor and respect and admire friends and strangers alike who go to therapy but refuse to let myself reach out for clinical support even when such a darkness envelopes me that it physically hurts to get out of bed or when I’m so anxious that an armed shooter will enter my classroom & hide to ambush the kids and me when we enter next that I make excuses that “my purse is in there” or “I have a test copy on my desk” when having to check twice or three times that the room’s main door is looked. Do I recognize the irrationality of that thought? Yes. Even when I cannot keep down lunch due to that over-whelming anxiety, do I seek out professional therapy? No. I meditate. I do yoga. Both recenter me, and I can function again. I no longer feel physically ill nor anxious.
Now that you know a little bit about something so difficult that it’s easy to write about but something I have never spoken about with anyone, back to the title. Yoga isn’t therapy. But, for me it has helped me embrace the contradictions of who I am. Think about “rooting down to rise up.” Contradiction. It makes sense physically, however: we firmly ground our feet into the earth with strength and intention so that we can sweep our arms up freely into Urdhva Tadasana (Extended Mountain Pose) and other poses where we reach and balance.
I used to struggle greatly with who I am, the contradictions. Working through a yoga practice, I began to recognize the beauty and strength in my complexities. The longer I practice yoga, the more it helps me embrace and understand the complexities of who I am. Yoga can be translated as “to yoke,” in other words, to bring together. On an existential level, practicing yoga brings me back together. It’s afforded me an awareness of self that I think therapy has done for people I love and those I barely know or have not yet met. Yoga affords me access to a higher sense of self that without which I might not understand.
As one of my students wrote in a journal entry last week, “you do you and I’ll do me. Each of us will find what works best. Together we’ll learn.”