Vulnerability and Courage

As I was walking to yoga class last week, I found myself with tears welling up in my eyes. During savasana, I held back sobs. It was unsettling because I had gotten into yoga to strengthen my body and correct my bad posture. It was going to bring my life back into balance and give me inner peace.

I do sense that yoga is changing me in ways I had never imagined, but it is disturbing. I feel unexpectedly exposed, vulnerable, even raw. In our practice, we are constantly doing hip openers, heart openers, backbends that crack open the crusty exterior of our musculature, the hard shell that each of us has built up around me over the years.

I often wondered why there was all this military imagery in yoga — Warrior’s pose, Hero’s pose. It seemed odd for a discipline that was based on ahimsa — doing no harm. But it is clear that you really have to be brave, courageous to accept this sense of vulnerability and risk that comes out of a yoga practice. By opening up from within, we are exposing ourselves to the world around us in ways that we had avoided before. By opening up to the possibilities of inner change, we initiate a dynamic that breaks out of the hardened channels of our lives.

Post data: This posting was originally written for the Open Mind Open Body forum. My yoga mentor, Kelly McGonigal, pointed me to The Heart of the Bodhisattva by Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche, the head of the Shambhala Buddhist lineage, who describes the traits of the bodhisattva-warrior. [ MLS: The text is no longer available online.]