I was having a rough day. My conversations with my partner were struggling; unproductive, forced, rocky. My self-confidence was plunging. I found it difficult to do pretty much anything including eat, properly digest food and even breathe. I knew I needed a re-set, so I grabbed my trusty yoga mat that I have lugged around with me through ten different countries and found a yoga class. It was being held on an old wooden balcony in Panama. If you moved too quickly, the balcony would sway over the slapping waves beneath us. Falling in line with the rhythm of my passed week, I arrived five minutes late to class.
I slinked down, shrunk myself, hoping the teacher wouldn’t see me arriving late, but when you’re on a swaying balcony it’s hard to hide your existence (and tardiness). Everyone saw me (arrive late).
I unrolled my mat and plopped down. OK, Sheena. You’re at least here. Can you please try to pull your life/thoughts/feelings/bodily functions together?
I placed my backbone on the mat, closed my eyes and interlaced my fingers resting on my tummy.
The teacher instructed us all to take a deep inhale. When you are stressed out to the max, it’s difficult to breathe. Your body’s muscles are tense, making expansion of the ribs and lungs exceedingly difficult (which, ends up stressing you out even more as you actively fail on the yoga mat). That became my current situation. I tried. I failed. I stressed. I tried. I failed. I stressed more. Sheena, you’re a freaking yoga teacher! You should be able to do this!
The teacher instructed us to hold with our lungs full, and then slowly exhale. On the empty side of the breath, she said:
“Now, hold on empty.”
This, I could do. I can successfully hold at empty because I was living my life on empty this passed week. I held on empty. I felt my lungs resist at first. They were in panic mode and wanted to react fast. They wanted to fill up again with shallow breaths, the kind of breaths you feel when you’re fighting with your significant other, experiencing embarrassment, feeling hurried or running away from an animal trying to eat you. I felt my lungs fighting, but I held. On empty.
On my next inhale, my lungs fought me less. They allow me to fill them up a little more than last time. My body was beginning to trust me, again. It was releasing its fight-or-flight grip it had on me and my body’s respiratory and digestive systems were slowly coming back to its business-as-usual processing.
When it came time to leave that yoga class, the teacher’s words “hold on empty” stuck with me.
As a Life Coach, I tend you talk often about abundance and living a full life as your best self, but sometimes your best self needs to hold on empty.
Holding on empty means you are not afraid to acknowledge your physical, mental or emotional struggle.
Holding on empty means you are not afraid to pause within that struggle.
Holding on empty means you are accepting the full spectrum of your experience: every inhale needs an exhale; every peak needs a valley.
Holding on empty means you know and use your personal power on empty or full.
Holding on empty means you recognize the temporary nature of our circumstances, feelings and fears.
Rolling up my yoga mat, I smiled. The only part of the class where I felt successful was holding on empty. But I walked away feeling happy knowing I don’t have to stay there.