I have scoliosis. My scoliosis was so drastic that I underwent extensive corrective surgery when I was 16 years old. I came to yoga when one of my vertebrae started leaning on my sacrum, pinching a nerve, causing enormous pain down my glutes and into my leg. It was so debilitating that I ended up at the orthopedist, who ordered PT.
After one session, I realized the physical therapist was prescribing yoga moves, so instead of staying at PT, I went to the yoga studio.
In that studio, I got much more than PT for my unequal muscle development. I found pockets of grief and heartbreak, irritably, and deep, deep sadness. I found panic and inexplicable joy. Yoga cleared my mind, released me from self-sabotage, and allowed access to empathy and vulnerability that I didn’t know was in me. I got all of this from merely showing up to class, day after day, week after week, month after month.
Today in class, we did backbends — a whole lot of backbends. My back generally doesn’t have very much mobility to extend backward. It’s fused from between the shoulder blades to the last two vertebrae. I’ve been protecting my back for over 30 years, which is about 29 years too many.
I’m afraid of backbends. My fear makes me feel “less than” the other students in the class. Comparison screams, “How can you be a good yogi if you can’t do backbends?” and “What kind of yoga teacher will you be if you can’t do backbends?”
These feelings of fear and inadequacy are universal. Everyone has felt like they aren’t good enough or afraid that they will never measure up. The fear may look like anger, or sadness, or self-righteousness. Maybe, if you’re lucky like me, you get the trifecta.
As I moved through the shapes, I was tempted to give up. Already irritable, from these dumb ole stupid ole backbends, I recognized the silly song on the playlist. You know THE song? It’s the one you really don’t like. It was the straw that broke my already irritable camel’s back. The song really pissed me off, aggravating my self- righteous nerve. My Judge Judy mind imagined telling Alison to scrap that terrible song for all of the “I’m better than the Grammy award-winning musician “ reasons. Judge Judy thoughts gave me power, then robbed that power, and I lay there, in the final resting pose, sad. Just plain sad, I heard the lyric of a different song, “Love is still the answer.” And it is.
Love is the answer to fear.
Love is the answer to our feelings of inadequacy.
Love says you’re exactly where you’re supposed to be.
Love is the answer to our Judge Judy critical mind.
Love never judges, it accepts – quickly and without reservation.
Love recognizes that we are all on this journey of life together, and we are all in different parts of the trip.
Love releases you and me from our compulsive need to be right. It allows for tolerance and compassion.
Love exorcises the demon of selfishness and replaces it with contentment.
Love is still the answer.
“Love is what’s left when you let go of absolutely everything you don’t need.” Erich Shiffman.
Just for Today
I will practice letting go of fear, insecurity, bravado, selfishness, the right to be right. When I feel these things creep in, I’ll take a breath and practice love.
You say that perfect love casts out all fear (1 John 4:18). Infuse my thoughts, emotions, and my soul with your Perfect love.