A couple of months ago, I arrived at yoga very angry and frustrated. I asked my teacher how yoga can be used to process anger. She asked me how I deal with anger. I said that I either lash out or I keep it inside and let it poison me. She and I went into the hot room and she opened the practice by asking us, ‘What is it you long for?’ She asked us to connect to the deepest ache we felt right at the bottom of our chests, the most desperate thing we felt in our hearts. By the end of class, I was crying so hard that I was inconsolable.
Four times now, I have been in class where she has opened the practice with this intention. It leaves me a bawling mess every time. The third time I was in class when she asked us this question, she said we will all have an immediate answer and then deeper answers as we peel back layers of longing. My very first longing is for a particular person whom I love, but the deepest longing is not to be disabled anymore.
She said that the very deepest ache that we have is what drives us to practice yoga. It brings us to the mat time and time again. It’s where we work through our emotional baggage and we address the most personal things in our lives. I started practicing yoga in order to find a new and challenging way to heal myself, but all of my physical therapy and treatment is, ultimately, rooted in the deepest longing to completely remove every trace of my disability from my body.
The last time she said, ‘What do you long for,’ I was in a downward-facing asana and immediately began to cry. I knew that that particular bout of crying concerned the person I long for, but that my deepest longing was to be free of my disability. It felt very strange to actually go from somewhat calm to a complete mess instantly, tears running down my face. I knew why I was crying, and I allowed myself to feel it while I flowed through the rest of the practice.
I always leave those classes feeling humbled and sad, but they motivate me to keep returning to the mat time and time again, and to understand why I do what I do every day.