Just a few days ago I was cooking in the kitchen and I heard a kid fight brewing in the living room. It started off with a snippy remark. Then I heard stuffed animals being thrown, then some yelling, then pillows were thrown. By the time I arrived on the scene to intervene, at least one book had been thrown and an iPod with headphones attach was raised for a chucking.
“Hey, hey. Pause here a second! You guys are really angry right now!”
Both boys looked at me and said at exactly the same time, with exactly the same grimace and red face and bulgy forehead vein, in exactly the same growly voice and snarled, “I’m not angry!”
Denying an emotion or an experience we are having is something we have all done at one time or another.
For me it usually goes like this…
Husband: Are you okay? What’s wrong?
Me: Nothing. I’m fine.
Why? Why do we even do this?
I think it might be because we don’t want to feel angry/tired/sad/whatever we are denying. Some emotions have been deemed “bad”. Some of our experiences are painful and just downright unpleasant! And who wants to acknowledge that we are in pain – physically or emotionally?
Yoga invites us – encourages us! – to acknowledge, allow, and even accept the experiences we are having. It’s big part of connecting to ourselves.
If we are using our posture practice as the place for exploration on this point, it might look like acknowledging that our tree pose feels wobbly. Or maybe acknowledging that we are talking to ourselves in a harsh way when we can’t do a pose in the way we think we should be able to do it.
Give this a try in your everyday life. When you stand on the metro platform or in line at the grocery store, is your weight on both feet? I’ll bet it’s not. And what about your knees? Are you locking them? I’ll bet you are.
I’m not trying to say that there is some ideal posture for everyone (read or listen to this fascinating piece!) I’m not trying to say that every time you stand up, you need to be in mountain pose.
And I’m definitely not saying we have to be complacent.
Practicing yoga is not about accepting and then throwing up our hands and saying “oh well this is how it’s going to be.” It’s just the opposite, actually.
The only way we can move forward toward whatever it is we want is to know our starting point.
Back in the day before GPS and smart phones that could pinpoint your location for you, if you wanted directions you had to know where you were before you could plot your course toward your destination.
Let’s go back to the knee locking. Noticing that your knees are locking, or in other
words, hyperextending and moving beyond a functionally straight position, can give you good information.
Knee locking is one of those unconscious things many of us do, often in an unconscious effort to brace ourselves and feel a sense of stability. Shoes with heels exacerbate this tendency. The problem is that as the knees curve back, the tops of thighs and hips have to move forward to compensate. This puts a bunch of pressure on low back. To compensate for the low back, the pelvis tucks into a posterior position in an effort to reduce pressure on the low back. Now the lumbar (low back) spine is flattened and the cervical (neck) spine flattens reciprocally so the head juts forward.
Long story short, hyperextended knees can contribute to low back and neck pain.
So if we want to move toward a pain-free low back and knees we have to be able to notice, acknowledge, and accept that our knees locking and that might part of the problem.
Then we can move forward to what we want and intend for our body’s experience. Our asana practice is the place where we can notice and adjust the physical habits like the way we use (or don’t use!) our bodies.
Meditation is our way in to our to do this same thing with our emotional self. It’s our tool and strategy for noticing, acknowledging, allowing, and then choosing to respond in a way that is more helpful for what we want in our lives.
Here’s a great video of why meditation is a worthwhile practice. If you are reading this, I probably don’t need to convince you but honestly, I just can’t get enough of this amazing animated mouse and hedgehog. And who doesn’t want a unicorn thrown in for good measure? Watch and see.