By Joe Hessenius
I am amazed how much of our physical body reflects our mental and emotional state. Within the first few months of doing yoga I discovered the effects of my practice beyond the physical body. I would be in class and begin to shed a tear. I was not even thinking of anything specific, and then suddenly in a certain pose, with that certain breath, something was released. I had no explanation and years later I learned; I did not need one.
As I continue to teach, I am reminded (by students and myself) how much we hold within ourselves. I am currently teaching at a retreat in Spain, between Alicante and Valencia in Valle de Gallinera, known as Yoga Sutra Shala. The owner of the retreat, Namit, has taken a two month holiday to India, leaving a group of trusted volunteers to take over while he is away. It has been an interesting and exciting experience, learning the ins and outs of running a retreat. More and more wonderful people walk through the door every week and it is our drive to continue keeping the place in full swing.
I love the retreat setting because we have a week to get to know our guests, and especially as a teacher, it is a wonderful way to progress students toward their individual needs. We get to know one other quite intimately as we participate together in class, as well as eating meals, hiking, and sharing space with one another every day. We all arrive shy, and I say we because I feel a bit shy at first as well. Yes, every week. It takes a couple days before everyone begins to open up, going from small talk to expressing passions and vulnerabilities.
Our program runs from Sunday afternoon through Friday afternoon. Tuesday is our hike to La Forada (pictured below) (literally translated as ‘hole in the rock’), providing an epic overlook of Vall de Gallinera (pictured above), which extends all the way to the Mediterranean Sea. I enjoy this hike not only for the beautiful scenery and views, but the discussions that arise as well. The hike is a wonderful ice breaker and great with the Self Love discussion that follows Tuesday evening. I feel this is a great way to lead everyone into our Wednesday class theme, heart opening.
By midweek, we all begin to settle in with our practice, space, and each other, allowing us to find trust to open up more. Sticking with the heart opening theme in my meditations as well, I like to bring awareness to Metta, a meditation that brings loving kindness to oneself and others. I feel the intersection of all these aspects has been a great way to serve everyone.
A dear friend of mine taught me that “breakdowns lead to breakthroughs.” This is a valuable lesson for me because at times we may become so caught up in our breakdown and not witness our growth; the breakthrough. Once we can recognize our hindrance, distraction, and/or problem, healing may begin.
The first week I returned to Sutra Shala, I sat in on the Self Love discussion. I hardly said a word and the following week I said nothing at all. I simply listened.
Self love is challenging. I, and many people in our society, will expend all of our love and energy to everyone we know and care for—except oneself. We have been conditioned that self care is selfish, but if we cannot take care of ourselves; then how can we care/love anyone else? I write these words hypocritically because many days I do not feel worthy of my own love, nor love from others. This false belief of denying myself love is something that I have been attached to for many years and is a continuous battle, some days more challenging than others.
Why am I expressing this here in such a vulnerable setting? Because this is a part of my healing or so I hope. I scan these thoughts in my mind often, but to read my published words is another perspective. I know I am worthy of love, from myself and others, though I have become attached to the opposite mindset.
Yoga has allowed me to begin to heal these old wounds. To detach. And what I love is how each week it becomes easier. Each group that arrives at the retreat teaches me to detach from beliefs that no longer serve me. Each person shares a similar or different belief/story that does not serve him/her and we are able to help one another begin to break the cycle. We validate each other’s worth. The gratitude and validation lifts me up every moment and heals the old wounds that still reside.
I do not need anyone’s approval to know my own self worth; except myself. I have discovered that what I have been through is a blessing. It has allowed me to connect with people in a special way. Everything happens for a reason and now I am beginning to find why I am who I am, because this is what was meant to be. No matter how positive or negative our experiences have been or currently are, it is our choice how we share them with the world and we always have a choice how we would like to impact those around us. And my choice is to help make the world a better place no matter what I do, whether I am teaching yoga, listening, inspiring, or simply working in the dirt.
About the Author
Joe has been practicing for about 5 years. Becoming a “yogi” was the last thing he expected, let alone teaching. Completing his 200 hr teacher training in Hatha / Vinyassa at the White Lotus Institute in 2014, he never intended on teaching; however, life happens and yoga is the answer. He is currently teaching in Spain and will be returning to teaching in Humboldt Summer 2019.