Change lurks in the shadows

Sometimes change is so subtle it’s difficult to notice, and that’s why when I’m asked how my recovery is going; all I can mutter is that it is slow and steady. Last week’s yoga practice reminded me that it can take time before you notice change and that it takes a lot of awareness.

My yoga instructor told us at the start of the practice to just notice and pay attention to what was going on in our bodies (and mind) during the class and to write down three keywords afterwards. That’s when I noticed a flush of heat in my chest and head: I was panicking.

I tried to put it aside, but I knew from past experience that this technique doesn’t work that well for me, so at certain intervals I could feel the panic reappear.

Luckily my yoga instructor also teaches mindfulness, so the yoga is incredibly slow and mostly static, with deep breathing to the lower dantian (navel) in between the different poses, so that helped me calm down.

At the end of the class, as I lay in the legs-up-the wall pose, I thought of what I was going to write instead of focussing on the breathing. Again panic came and all I could write was how stressed the task made me, even though during the class I noticed stiffness in my lower back, and how I felt great heat in my feet and knees when stretching them up in the air.

When I saw my instructor the next day, she said next time this happened to tell myself that there was no need to perform, so I simply had to put the task aside and be present during the class, and if I didn’t have anything to write afterwards, then that was part of the practice. So easy and so profound. I will try this strategy next time I get stressed and I fear punishment.

But what really struck me was that a year or so ago, I wouldn’t have dared to tell my yoga instructor that I got stressed, because I would have felt ashamed as well as not daring to speak up.

So the practice was a feedback to me to that all the internal work I’ve been doing to learn and dare to speak up is paying off.

But it took awareness to see that. Just as it takes awareness to notice that I no longer fear going up the nearest hills, and that I can now enter a shopping centre without feeling an immense sense of anxiety, and that I can now read a bit without getting so immensely tired.

Sometimes you don’t see the changes until after they have happened, and until you are aware of the change it can sometimes seem as life is still and that there’s no progress, then remind yourself that change is lurking around in the shadows and that it will appear when the time is right. Just as this change revealed itself after I had experienced some days where I felt my life was totally without meaning.

Seeing that the internal work is paying off has given me the boost I needed to continue my yoga practice, and to try to bring it into my daily life.

Author: Elisabeth Kolstad

I am a kundalini yoga teacher and writer in Bergen, Norway.

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