Scared of camels

Not that sort of camel.

Last year, I did a Bikram yoga 30 day challenge, where I did 30 classes in 30 days. I was a bit of a wreck at the end of it; I came home after the end of the final class and promptly broke down in tears. The whole experience was a bit emotional and I didn’t do any yoga after that for several months. Since then, it’s been hard to get back into the swing of regular practice.

I blame the camels.

Bikram yoga is a series of 26 yoga poses, which includes doing two repetitions of camel pose. This pose is basically a backbend done on your knees. Because you are exposing your chest, heart and throat, many people talk about camel as being a really emotional posture. It is not uncommon to feel dizzy and have a very strong reaction afterwards. I’ve heard it said that this posture can cause people to orgasm, but that has very much not been my experience. I’ve always reacted negatively, at best feeling dizzy, at worst wanting to cry, but usually feeling very anxious for no good reason whatsoever. Usually the feelings subside after a few minutes, but during the challenge, they lasted longer and longer until eventually they weren’t going away and I was feeling nervous and uneasy outside of class. Since I’ve returned to yoga, I’ve always given camels a miss, scared of reawakening those feelings.

While I was doing the challenge, I had one teacher who noticed that I was always sitting out another pose. When I mentioned that I didn’t do it because it hurt my knees, she replied that if I never did it, I was never going to get any better at it. And she was right. Since that conversation, I’ve always at least attempted that posture. I may not go as deep into it as everyone else and sometimes it sends shooting pains through my knees, but, through practice, I am getting better at it. I can go deeper than before, and it hurts less often. It may be slight, but it is progress.

I decided to put that lesson into practice with the camels. Yesterday I went into my yoga class determined to do both sets of camel, no matter how bad I felt. And I did – do two sets and feel bad. I came out of the first one feeling like I wanted to throw up. It was a struggle to stay in the second one with my mind pleading with me to get out of it. I finished it holding back tears.

But I did both of them. It didn’t kill me and I hope it made me stronger. I know I’m carrying a lot of emotional baggage, and hopefully doing camel pose and trying not to be scared of those emotions will help me to work through them and let go. It’s going to be a long journey, but I’ve taken the first step.

Photo courtesy Weisserstier

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