"Don't Rush Your Healing," Said The Wild Yogi

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By: Shannon Kopp

I walked into yoga hating everybody.

It was a gentle, candlelit yoga class, and the woman who placed her mat down beside me was wearing some kind of miniskirt over hot pink spandex pants. And then, a few rows in front of me, another woman had the audacity to wear a scarf. A scarf! Who wears such things to yoga?

The teacher, a young Asian woman dressed in all white, walked into the room with her Mac laptop and yoga mat. She set up in front, started playing some cool music, and then said, "Welcome to Kundalini Yoga."

Kunda-what?

She asked who, out of the jam-packed class, was new to the practice. I raised my hand along with about five other women. The teacher explained a little bit about Kundalini, which I'm going to get wrong here, because I was still very distracted by the miniskirt and scarf ladies.

What I heard was that the practice was a bit of a rebellion, and a bit of a gift. A spiritual teacher in India broke the rules by bringing this sacred practice to the US and offering it to ordinary men and women. In India, the practice was reserved for only the most enlightened men around, and it was not supposed to be shared.

But this guy didn't feel right keeping something that was so healing to him. So he went to Hollywood, of all places, and started teaching it to others in the 1960's. Now it's practiced around the world.

We started the class with some simple breathing exercises while the teacher talked. She said that society has taught us to value some things, and devalue others. We spend all our time thinking about the self we want to reveal to the world, and the self we want to hide. Our sacredness and value beyond labels and a physical identity... that's what this class would be about.

What happened over the next hour will be hard for me to explain. I've never experienced anything like it. I'll just say that at one point, the instructions were to lie on our backs and flop around like a fish out of water. "Be silly! Be crazy!" the teacher said. "Let the you you hide from the world come out!"

The music changed to intense drumming, and I flopped like my son does when he’s having a tantrum. "Let it out! Let it all out! The anger! The self-hatred! The way you try to control every outcome! Let it out! Just be!” yelled the teacher.

We all had our eyes closed, so I couldn't see what others were doing, but I could hear them. The room was literally shaking. People were pounding the floor, and I started pounding too. I moved my body however it wanted to move, and then, when the teacher told us all to scream, I screamed at the top of my lungs. So did the people around me.

Then the drumming stopped and the flopping stopped and the screaming stopped and it was quiet for long minutes.

***

Suddenly, the most beautiful song came on. We gently got up off the floor and sat cross-legged with our hands over our hearts. The chorus of the song chanted: “Don’t rush your healing. Don’t rush your healing.”

I opened my eyes for a moment and saw the water bottle at the front of my mat.

My mother gave it to me in the days after I gave birth to my son, Noah. She also brought me two robes, four sets of pajamas, all those bathroom and nursing products one needs after delivering a baby, two sets of slippers (in case one didn't fit), and this water bottle.

"I just want you to be comfortable, and I want you to drink water," I remember her telling me. "As you are nursing, drink from this. It's important."

"Don't rush your healing," the song said.

I started to cry, thinking about what a long journey it has been for me to learn how to take care of myself, and how I am still learning. I cried at the at the thought of how many days I’ve set my sacred self aside, as if she didn’t matter at all.

***

The robes and slippers and bath products from my mother—that’s what they were about. She didn’t say it with words, but with her Target purchases: “You matter, honey. You’re going to be tempted to lose yourself in caring for this baby. But you have to continue to care for you.”

We ended the class by singing "Long Time Sun" to the part of ourselves we try to hide from the world--the part we feel most ashamed of. I thought of the self who couldn’t stop turning to food for comfort, and who desperately needed to belong, and who now feels she can’t possibly deserve the gifts in her life, and I sang to her:

"May the Long Time Sun Shine upon you All love surround you And the pure light Within you Guide your way on Guide your way on.”

When we finished, I opened my eyes. I loved every person in that crazy room. I loved the teacher. I loved the miniskirt and scarf ladies. I loved my mother. I loved myself.

I came home and told my husband I loved him (tomorrow I would tell him about the fish flopping exercise). I went into my son's room and kissed him on the forehead as he slept and told him I loved him. I cuddled on the floor with Bella and told her I loved her.

And now, I just want to say, I love you.

About the Author: Shannon Kopp is an Eating Disorder Recovery Center National Recovery Advocate and the best-selling author of Pound for Pound: A Story of One Woman’s Recovery and the Shelter Dogs Who Loved Her Back to Life, published by HarperCollins.