I’m guilty of using yoga (or meditation) as a way to numb out my pain, emotion and make myself feel good. So what’s wrong with this ? It works right? This is probably an exaggeration but if we are using yoga that way, it’s no different from using beer, or xanax, or substances to get away from your emotions or pains. We ended up repressing emotions and will never transform. Emotion needs to rise and be acknowledged before being let go.
Worse, just like any other thing, you will have to do more and more yoga, more and more meditation to feel the same effect, as your body adjusts to it. Typical yoga class no longer cuts it for me. I need a super sweaty, crazy hard stuff to feel good these days. So I ask myself, am I doing it right? I have been doubting myself this for a while. I know something is not right. I say yes I am doing it just fine, but it could be better.
This post is inspired by this post I read.
“So why not? Using meditation or yoga (or anything) to self sooth or numb out can calm you down and keep you okay, and that’s fine. The issue is that it won’t change you. It won’t heal you. It won’t transform you.
While emotional numbing is certainly encouraged in pursuit-of-happiness America, and all meditators fall prey to dissociating (daydreaming is a mild form) now and again, if learned properly, the average practitioner will learn to connect with and experience emotion instead of repress it.”
And if you asked me, I would say, no I don’t know how to not use yoga as my beer. It’s hard. I am so good and so used to repress my emotions, for so long. I repress everything. My long chronic back pain is, as I recently learn, a symptom of repressing my anger and anxiety. (This topic is probably more appropriate for another post, about TMS. Those who have chronic pain, this book, Healing Back Pain: The Mind-Body Connection
, is worth looking into. Don’t wait to get it like I did. )
No matter how much yoga I do, i will still have some sort of stiffness and tensions in my shoulder or neck. It’s not from too much chaturanga, or vinyasa. It’s from the stress, from the repressed emotion of fear, sometimes anger, the not knowing and anxiety about the future.
I know this true because I have been doing this (yoga) long enough that I know, every time I am able to get rid of the tension, it always come back within a few hours. Because I quickly get stressed again.
By no means, I am blaming yoga here. Don’t get me wrong, without yoga I will probably suffer many other diseases like hypertension, ulcer, etc, and the back and neck pain might even be debilitating, instead of just numbness and dull in the neck and upper back.
But my point is yoga and meditation is capable of much more than that. More than just masking the symptoms. It’s capable of curing the root cause. It requires grind, and hard work, and tenacity to face yourself, to reach radical freaking acceptance.
As of now, as a professional emotional represser, I don’t know and I am not sure how I can fully feel my emotion again. I am convinced that there is this part of the brain, the unconscious part, that I am unable to control, but it has deep connection with my body. So working on my body, as yoga provides us the tool to, will eventually help. But I want something more direct, to work on it at a psychological and mental level as well.
Here is some strategies I could come up with to work on un-repressing-emotion-habit.
- Repeatedly ask myself, “what is it that I am hiding?” “what emotion that is being repressed?” “what is it that causing numbness in my upper back”. Usually you won’t hear the answer right away when you are asking. But unconscious mind, unlike our logical mind, takes a while to work, to process, and to change. So when you ask a question, you might be surprised that sometimes the answer comes to you, maybe not immediately, but it will come.
- When I feel emotion, I no longer divert my attention away. You can practice mindfulness of your emotion without reverting your attention away back to the breath. It’s a form of mindfulness. Just simply meditate or be mindful of the emotion, without judging. Sometimes, after a while, the emotion get bored, or it might not like being observed or noticed, it went away. And that way, we are not repressing it. We gave it a change to rise, and be acknowledged.
- Coerce. Tell you brain to stop it! Stop repressing! Stop hiding! Stop direct my attention away from what needed to be heeded at the time! If nothing else, might as well try coercion, right?
- Establish a daily practice. Establish a consistent practice, or a thing you do everyday at the same time that will allow you to reflect, be with yourself and don’t run away. Maybe coming to the mat every day. Or make yourself write everyday for certain amount of time. Or meditate at the same same for a certain amount of time every day. Commit to it, no matter how sucky it feels at the time. No shitty sessions go to waste. Shitty sessions are probably the most needed and that’s when we make the most progress. It’s the shitty session that allow difficult emotion to rise and process. We are our worst distractors. The reason for the prevalence of ADD is probably because we can’t even be with ourselves or difficult task for longer than 3 minutes. So make yourself stay. Stay!
So if you have any other strategies to stop the habit of repressing your emotion, please share ! I love to hear your comments, and you know I would take every suggestions I can get. ;)