Around 16 months old, my daughter went through a really unfortunate phase of kicking and squirming the moment I’d try to change a dirty diaper. On one such occasion, she was being particularly wild and it felt like she had one goal: poop everywhere! I was tired and trying to stay calm. I tried to reason with her (not a toddler’s strong suit) and she flailed more. And then I felt frustration well up and I yelled. Loudly. One of those shouting at your child moments you don’t want others to see.
And you know what she did? She laughed! She laughed like it was the most hilarious thing her mom had ever done. I closed my eyes, took a deep breath, and laughed too. She calmed down. I cleaned up the poop and we moved on with our day.
Have you ever had an experience where you feel like you could cry just as easily as you could laugh? Or be angry at someone just as easily as you could give them a warm hug?
I’ve been noticing more and more than in the case of highly charged feelings, that energy is rarely purely one thing. There are shades and subtleties and I can choose to dwell in one part or another of the feeling.
Experiences themselves don’t have to be inherently linked to any certain emotional response either. I could yell over my daughter getting poop on my hands or I could laugh about it. The situation is the same, my emotional response is a choice.
I’ve been working with this same ideas in postures.
For me, certain postures, like Navasana (boat pose) stir up feelings of dread, dislike, and avoidance. In others, such as Baddha Konasana (bound angle pose) I have a much more positive experience.
I’ve been playing with moving into a posture in which I feel calm or even joy and then holding onto that feeling, that flow of breath and moving into another posture that hasn’t historically sparked that same feeling. Moving back and forth between poses like this, I start to feel more equanimity.
In this way my practice doesn’t have to be accented with peaks and valleys of feelings, instead it can have a constant flow of energy. Rather than feeling any certain way about my practice, I can move into a just Being.
There’s an amount of freedom in not having to feel a certain way about any experience at all.
A difficult pose can be an enjoyable pose, and it can also just Be a pose, free of any subjective judgement. In the same way a difficult day with a toddler could just as easily be a joyful one, and really in the end it is just a day in which I get to practice being.
Catherine currently teaches at Victory Power Yoga in Clayton, NC. You can find out more about her practice and teaching at www.catherinestriegel.com.