Letting Go: Inhibitions and Our Practice

I am pretty sure that we have all been there - in a meeting, with a group of friends, on a dance floor, or on our mat.

A moment of sheer panic. We just aren't sure. Am I supposed to be saying this? Do I sound stupid? Do I look silly doing this dance move? Did the instructor say boat or bow pose?

We lose our breath. Our emotional shields come up - or stay up. We decide not to do what we really want to be doing or experiencing because we are afraid we are going to do it: wrong.

Wrong. Even when a "right" doesn't really exist. We often don't try because we are afraid to fail.

This is an inhibition. It is defined by Webster's dictionary as "an inner impediment to free activity, expression, or function." Amen, Webster.

Although sometimes it feels anything but, yoga is about letting go of inhibitions with our body and our mind. And I have quite a few of those inhibitions when it comes to my body and moving it. That's why I love Freedom Joy class so much - it's a safe space designed for releasing inhibitions. 

But for the past week, I've been examining my own issues with letting go of my inhibitions in everyday practice. 

Practicing Forrest for these last several months has truly changed my presence in my body (and as a result - my presence in life). Since starting, however, I have struggled with actually doing a few of the breathing exercises and more vocal parts of the practice at times (some Forrest yogis might feel me on this with uddiyana, bumble bee breathing, or the lion roaring). The tough part is that I believe that all of these are useful tools - they just put me in a place where I feel less comfortable in my own skin. I have Webster's "inner impediment."

And while I am open to trying almost anything in yoga, I was really having a hard time with uddiyana.

For non-practitioners, uddiyana bandha is one of several "locks" in the body - this one happens to be in the abdomen. The action of "engaging" uddiyana presents itself as a long inhale, forceful exhalation, and then a locking of the abdomen without inhale, and finally, a letting go of the belly to gather a new breath. As a breathing exercise, it promotes heat and engages the core. On first glance, it looks, well - weird. To someone who has trouble breathing to begin with (that would be me!) it seemed like the Mount Everest of Yoga.

And when I describe my relationship with Uddiyana as struggle, I'm talking about full-blown internal panic when it was taught in class. I was changing the experience into the equivalent of being unprepared for a presentation in a packed boardroom - dressed in just a bathing suit. I could create no shortage of mental exaggerations. And, of course, uddiyana is a part of almost every class. I would try to do it, but I was so rattled by a lack of perceived success, my frustration with not feeling "change" and - surprise - not doing it perfectly - that it was more of a superficial attempt in class. I wasn't really letting myself do it. I had tried it outside of class - in multiple asanas at home in private practice, before bed at night, in the shower - you name it.  Uddiyana + Abbie definitely equated to a lock, just not the one I was looking for. 

And then last night while working with Peter - I finally got it. Peter has this great way of leading you to yourself. He also has a great language of suggestion - so that you make the ultimate choice. There is a lot of power in that. And last night, he led me to a place where I finally just decided to let go and stop fighting this ridiculous notion that trying and failing was a bad thing. To let go of the fact that you have to do something with your stomach. Let go of the fact that you might not blow air out as fast or as loud as you need to or that it sounds weird to make such a fussy noise come out of your mouth. Just get out of the fact that it doesn't feel normal. Who ever said normal was the best thing? Do I strive for normal usually? No.

I finally made the mind body leap and did multiple rounds of Uddiyana. And it wasn't awesome or life-changing. I just felt present in the space. That was more than enough.

But today, when I woke up at 5am to go to Ana Forrest Intensives, I actually woke up feeling energized about practicing uddiyana.

And literally within the first 30 minutes of the practice this morning, Ana says this:

"You have to forget your inhibitions. What are they doing for you in this moment? Nobody cares if you make a mistake."

Apparently the universe felt that I needed that message on repeat. 

Inhale. Exhale. Lock. Let go.