Posted on May 13th, 2013
According to the Yoga Sutras, yoga should be easeful and restful. There is a certain awareness of ease that comes after any big release, yet the contents of that release are often fraught with tension, fear, tightness and ego. It was not part of my upbringing to be aware of these feelings in myself without judgment and repression. If things didn’t feel right, they were buried in my body while my head kept itself busy with other things. The result? A swamp of emotions that were repressed, yet present, in my daily existence.
On the outside, my life has been successful. I’m a lawyer and happily married living with a loving community in one of the richest countries in the world. However, internally, I have felt wobbly, insecure and ungrounded. I have lived my life as the youngest child of four girls in a divorced family that wasn’t taught mindfulness skills. The inevitable traumas associated with emotional neglect and dysfunction, as well as emotional and physical traumas were buried because I didn’t know what to do with myself when they happened. Instead, I tried to please according to other’s expectations and have done good things for the world because it is the ‘right’ thing to do. But, I never asked what it was that I wanted to do, nor how I actually felt. As a result, I have lived for decades in a detached state.
While blazing a path of achievement, I found yoga. And yoga changed my life. Once I took a sabbatical from law and delved deeply into the practice, I couldn’t ignore the dark swamp of emotions muddling up my day-to-day existence. I began to feel lighter and experience the real pain of my life’s experiences. Perhaps it was too much. I got another job and stopped my yoga practice. I lost my center once again, but this time I KNEW it was there—just below the surface. Last week at the Empowered Youth Initiative training, something woke up in me that has long been simmering. My body is my voice and it wants to be heard. With that listening comes Grace.
Thanks to Suzanne, Hala and Seane, I’ve allowed the somatic voice to be heard. With that release of tension in my body came the awareness that my service for good must necessarily flow from MY foundation. If I don’t know why I’m doing something in my body as well as my mind, I’m not going to be very effective for a sustained period of time. I might temporarily emerge out of the swamp of emotions, but I’ll soon plunge right back down into a murky abyss of ‘who am I?’
It has taken me four decades to wake up and realize that my body wants to be heard. It needs nurturing and compassion and permission to move forward powerfully, peacefully, passionately and with a strong, grounded purpose. Much like a lotus flower that is rooted in a tangled web of muddy roots, my life has been a struggle with dark forces that are always reaching for the light above. The beauty of yoga with OTM is that they encourage the rooting first, the merging with the mud without self-castigation. This nourishing, enriching union creates the base from which to flourish not only as an individual, but also as one who shares this beloved gift with others who are not rooted or do not reach.
I move forward into my 40th year as a grateful student who is both rooting down and reaching up and out toward taking my yoga off of the mat and into the world.
Kyra Millich of San Francisco, CA, is an Off the Mat leader participating in the Empowered Youth Initiative (EYI). EYI gives leaders unparalleled access to groups and institutions who work with at-risk youth, so that leaders can better understand the personal, cultural, socio-economic and political challenges these youth face, and incorporate this deeper knowledge and training into their own work serving youth.
Help Off the Mat to continue and expand our programs like the Empowered Youth Initiative. Join the Seed Network and donate the price of one yoga class per month to Off the Mat, Into the world. When you join the Seed Network, you invest in a community of leaders, like Kyra Millich, who are initiating grassroots social change from the inside out.