How did I find myself in this situation? Hint: I wasn’t playing golf (and get your mind out of the gutter).
I remember it like it was yesterday: back in August 2010, amidst the craziness of a life filled with unfulfilled potential and trying to do too many things at once, I had the bright idea to sign up for yoga teacher training. A few weeks into the training, I was smack dab in the middle of learning about hip opening poses when a river of emotion hit me like a ton of bricks.
“What the hell?” was my first thought. “Not so manly” was my second.
I was a hot mess, but I tried to play it cool.
Of course I tried to play it cool—I’m a guy! And us guys are programmed to think that showing emotion is a sign of weakness. Even worse, a key part of our “man code” is to never discuss our feelings or emotional ups and downs.
As it turns out, carrying the weight of years of repressed emotions from playing the strong role and not sharing feelings is not a good thing. Who knew?
Instead of (or maybe, in addition to) a healthy dose of pent-up frustration from life, I had a mixed bag of emotions locked away. This stressed out state of being had become my “normal”—and I was unaware of the consequences.
Through a lifetime of practice, I had become an expert at stockpiling emotions.
Let me explain how I would do this.
One method was deflection. In many of my relationships, I would be sure to ask enough questions of the other person that I wouldn’t have to talk about my own situation or work through my own problems.
Another method was to downplay what I was really feeling. If someone asked me, “How are you?” I would reply with “great” or “fine” (F.I.N.E., as in ‘Freaked Out, Insecure, Neurotic and Emotional,’ ‘Feeling Inadequate, Needing Encouragement’ or ‘Feelings Inside Not Expressed’). The result was a Pandora’s box spring-loaded with dynamite. The only thing it needed was a spark, something like a death in the family—or maybe a hip opening class.
Oh those hips…
Hip opening exercises let me learn how dangerous it is to lock up emotions, and that sometimes those emotions can suddenly explode on you.
In the hours that followed my hip moment, I had flashbacks of my Papa, my dad’s dad who had died on my birthday, of Damon, my youngest brother who had committed suicide in 2009 at the age of 22, and of random thoughts of days gone by. I thought I had addressed those issues, but in reality there had been a ton of emotions lingering.
Fast forward two and a half years: I’ve learned to be more mindful and aware of the tension in my hips. More importantly, I don’t hide my emotions anymore.
My yoga practice is therapy.
Today, I’ll share this story with anyone who will listen because it’s both funny and serious.
It’s also a good lesson for men: when they ask about yoga, I tell them that I started practicing because I wanted to meet women (yes, I know better now) and how I cried during a hip-opener class. It’s my version of a public service announcement for men to be mindful of their emotions (you should see the uncomfortable looks on some of their faces!).
My hope is that I influence at least one man to address his emotions. I believe that a world where more men spend time cultivating emotional awareness and healthy emotional expression is possible.
Now that I know “it’s all in the hips,” it’s time to work on my short game.
Courtesy of Elephant Journal.