Yoga has taught me that reaching for an unhealthy coping mechanism is rarely necessary, often expensive and almost never what we really need to get better.
Most of time, it just keeps us stuck in a cloudy fog of denial. And in my case, a set of orange fingers from my favorite savory snack.
The goal, then, instead of trying to eat or drink or shop away our feelings, is to stop and deal with what’s going on inside, right now. This is a very difficult habit to get into. Especially when a catastrophic force breaks us out of the normal circle we’ve learned to cope with and sends us into free fall.
But the good news is, any conditioned habit that our brain has learned, can also be unlearned. Sometimes we just have to enter through the side door.
Jung’s widely quoted theory on tuning into the body’s wisdom comes to mind. He said that often the hands would solve a mystery that the intellect struggled with in vain.
That’s why yoga has become my number one diagnostic tool. It forces me to confront the whole self. To listen to the story it’s trying to tell me. To access my emotional reality through my physical reality. And now, thanks to the daily practice, there are no longer any overwhelming feelings that I don’t have a healthy coping mechanism for.
Think about the last time you got a professional massage. The therapist’s hands are like flashlights in a darkened room. Where we’re touched is where our attention goes, and that provides information we were not aware of before walking into the room. In fact, we may not even realize that we’re tense or sore until we’re massaged in our calf, neck, shoulder or lower back.
But that physical experience gives us new information, which gives us new choices, which gives us the power to deal with whatever life hurls at us.
How will you use the power of the body to access the needs of the heart?
Scott Ginsberg is a writer, daily practitioner and work study volunteer at Bikram Yoga Park Slope.