This blog is the third in a series that invites you to experience the Yellow Barn’s 10-day Yoga of Transformation, guided by Gary (Anandasagar) Majchrzak, a nationally renowned yoga teacher and instructor.
The Transformation Yoga at the Yellow Barn is a three-hour strenuous practice that begins at 4:50 AM. Our small group of yogis enters the barn while its still dark outside. We slip off our shoes and make our way up the creaking staircase. We talk in hushed tones out of reverence for the practice, but mostly because we’re still half asleep. The candles that are placed throughout the space lend light and comfort in the darkness. I feel gratitude in the moment for being here in this beautiful place.
Throughout the practice, Gary calls out to relax deeper into the poses. This isn’t easy when we’ve been holding a pose for close to ten minutes, although I know all of us have summoned the courage to try. Early in the morning we go deep into the Plough Pose. This pose causes me and the other yogis a good deal of anxiety. Going into it is easy enough, but staying in stillness in the Halasana is not only uncomfortable, but its intense. And I want out of it almost immediately. My hips hang above my head as my toes rest on the floor behind me. My neck and upper shoulders stretch and flatten into the ground under the weight of my body. After a few minutes I can literally feel my vertebrae push against my skin and poke into the mat. We hold this position and do our best to “relax” into it for ten excruciating minutes. I can hear the grunts and the moans from the other yogis as they struggle to maintain stillness in the discomfort of screaming muscles. Gary encourages us to focus on our Second Chakra and relax deeper still into the pose.
I struggle and fidget in vain as I attempt to get my shoulder and upper back muscles to comply. The muscular pain is concentrated and extreme. My spine feels stretched to its limit and each second seems like an hour as I suspend my legs over my head. Usually, I try to distract myself from pain, but there is no escape from this. I face it since I have no other choice. I try to go deeper in my awareness and do my best to just get through it. The timer reaches its ten-minute mark and we slowly release the pose.
In our sharing circle after the practice, we examine the anxiety and pain that happens in the Plough Pose. Gary reminds us that we hold all sorts of negative emotions—sadness, shame, heartbreak, fears, guilt, stress—in our muscles, so when we open the muscles there emotions surface, and the result is sometimes a painful release that can be powerful enough to bring on tears. But once the emotional pain works its way out, the pain is gone forever.
I reflected on Gary’s words all day – how feelings of abandonment, anger and heartache can linger in the muscles and bones of our bodies and lie dormant there. It makes sense that if something weighs you down mentally, it’ll likely weigh you down physically, too. This pose offers the promise to tap into the tensions I hold in my back, hips and shoulders – to force me to confront these unresolved issues and release the emotional pain I experienced in the past. I don’t know if this knowledge will make tomorrow’s Plough pose any easier, but this awareness will hopefully bring more intelligence and a deeper purpose to my practice. Additionally, I did notice that after I left the mat I experienced an inner calm today that I have never experienced before. To me, this calm is noteworthy and worth continued exploration.
I want to thank the Yellow Barn for offering such a sacred and beautiful space to practice the Transformational Yoga in. The hot tea, conversation, and bonding at the end of todays practice were delightful and heartwarming. The Yellow Barn is truly a place of community.