If you read yesterday’s post about Flashbacks and Disappointments, you know that I have been struggling in restorative fish pose and had a not so great experience in that pose in class yesterday. 

Tonight I went to another yoga class taught by that same instructor. Again, she knows that I struggle with anxiety and PTSD, and I generally feel safe with her. Before class, we were chatting in the lobby and she asked me if there was anything I’d like to work on in class. I took a deep breath and asked her if she could put us in restorative fish again. She said, “of course,” and began rambling about how yummy that pose is. I told her that I typically enjoy backbends, but lately I’ve been struggling with a few, including restorative fish and hero. She asked me what I meant by that and I told her I was struggling to stay present because things keep coming up in those poses. She pushed for more information by asking what was coming up. I responded with one word: flashbacks. I looked away embarrassed. I’m not sure why I find this part of my life “embarrassing”….maybe it’s shame. She said, “Ok. We’ll work on breathing and staying present. Maybe we’ll start class in that pose.”

When class began, she came over to me and whispered to me that we wouldn’t do the pose until later in the class. Towards the end of class, she cued the pose and I was ready. I had spent the whole class focusing on inhales and exhales, mindfulness, and listening to my “inner teacher.” I got my eye pillows to place in my hands for added weight to help with grounding. I made sure my neck roll was a little bigger this time so my head didn’t hang quite as far back. I took a deep breath, and sighed it out once I settled into the pose. One more cleansing breath with the class. Eyes closed. Counting inhales and exhales. The room was silent and I was ok. Was being the key word. Suddenly, just like the other times, I wasn’t anymore. My eyes opened and I started counting the slats and running through what parts of my body were touching the floor. Unlike last time, the instructor did not come over and touch me. I could hear her voice – it was soft and calm: “If you find your thoughts becoming anxious as images flash through your mind, gently bring the souls of your feet to the mat. Bring yourself back to your breath.” I couldn’t hear the next few sentences because I was busy working so, so hard to stay present. When I calmed my anxiety, I heard the instructor say, “If you’re feeling safe, explore with stretching your legs out long again.” Right before the pose ended, she said, “This pose is an expansion of our chest and our throat chakra. It is a heart opener, expanding our love, and reminding us that we all deserve to be loved.” 

That’s it. We all deserve to be loved. What happened to me when I was little was horrible. Really bad things happened to me and I spent over 20 years trying to pretend that it wasn’t that bad. In so many ways, I was not loved as a child. And for literally my entire life, I thought that I just got what I deserved. I thought that I deserved to hurt like that. Today I think is the first time I’ve ever heard someone tell me that I deserved to be loved. I didn’t deserve what happened to me. What happened to me, and what happens to 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys, is truly tragic. No one deserves it. And deep down, I know that and I believe that. But in the moment, when you’re struggling with flashbacks and anxiety, when you grow up thinking that nightmares and dissociation is “normal,” it is hard to remember that you didn’t deserve what happened to you. It’s hard to remember sometimes that you are more than the abuse that happened to you. Tonight, as I was working with as much courage and strength as I possibly could to prevent the flashback that I could feel coming on, I was reminded that I deserve to be loved – from others and from myself.

I am so grateful for the love and compassion that I have found at this yoga studio. I am also proud of myself tonight for finding the courage to tell the instructor what I was struggling with. There was a point in my trauma work where I felt like I should be working through everything on my own – I shouldn’t need someone else to help me. Clearly I was wrong! I’m working through years of trauma! I spent my whole life dealing with it alone. Having people to support me and help me through this process makes it so much easier…so much less scary. We all deserve to be loved.