A yoga practice is a neat way of exploring all those sticky attachments we never even knew we had. Losing someone can do the same thing too when the instance of loss reveals the fallacy of our fostered belief in autonomous agency and control over who makes decisions in our lives. Loss, practice, and love all expose the delicate and contingent nature of our attachment to the world and to the others around us; they all present situations that force the acknowledgement of a sense of self that cannot be (and never was) sovereign.
“Trust yourself”: In the past week this statement has been uttered to me on more than one occasion. Normally this is the sort of remark that receives a bristly and unpleasant retort from myself, but this time the words emerged as a gentle guide that warmly sought to aid me over a threshold. This is the type of threshold that blurs into focus on your horizon and just won’t budge no matter how you try to skirt its glare or construct inventive past-times to while away your time. In a yoga practice we know these thresholds well, the formalized ones we designate in Ashtanga, and then those that furrow upwards into your upside down eye-line until you finally manage to utter the words that make it actual: “It’s the fear”.
It feels like fear for it is a situation which is actively encouraging you to dissolve your sense of self. And fear is such an immobilizing emotion. It keeps us static, lazy, and waiting. It’s not always wrong to tell oneself ‘Tomorrow’ (again) when the body is exhausted from the repetitive action of trying to stand up from an inverted position. (The body after all might be more rational than we give it credit for – what evolutionary purpose does ‘dropping back’ serve anyway?). We’re bending our bodies inside out for the sheer enlightenment of it, so let’s not denigrate our senses when they tell us to take some time out.
Perhaps though it is best not to dwell for too long of a time staring at your navel and contemplating explanations (am I repressing some childhood trauma of being held upside down against my will??). These are all glosses on an affective encounter: we could spend a lifetime codifying our incoherent and ambivalent desires, but we won’t get very far.
Feeling afraid (of a backbend, of the world, of men, of a vision of a life worth living) are all deferrals of a future that is not yet known. Often in yoga chat we might be encouraged to ‘surrender’ or ‘let go’ but it is not just that. To acknowledge the self as not already (and neither becoming) sovereign is not a temporary admission to becoming different; it is permanent shift in one’s identity. We lose something in this moment, that thing, whatever it was that kept us clinging onto a slow and wearing way of life sustained by fear, it goes missing. We don’t ‘let go’ then in order to return back to a sense of security and safety; we let go and we don’t come back.
“Trust yourself” then is the sort of thing said to reassure us that we still come back in some form. It is to point towards the fact that even if a yoga practice is an enduring cycle of dissolving bad attachments, we still have the capacity to produce many and other new attachments to the world. The daily yoga practice itself for one, that knowingly and unknowingly begins to chip away at our so-called ‘shameful’ habits and attachments that had kept us in a secure dwelling place for so long. To move across the threshold into the unfamiliar is to abdicate sovereignty elsewhere, to do away with it altogether. “Trust yourself” is the kind gesture that nudges us into tackling a relation that might feel dreadful and yet dredges us up and out of the stagnancy of waiting.