This weekend I went to a cave, all vertical, which means rope work, our lead was panicking for no reason I could see. As an empath I could feel his panick like a cold black dread in the bottom of my gut. I even had to go out of the cave to have a bowel movement, it was that intense, even before we left the daylight behind. So how does this relate to yoga? one word Bandhas.
I am pretty sensitive to emotions of people around me. For a long time I didn’t know how to separate them from my own, in fact I would take other peoples emotions and make them mine. This was hurting me, and draining me completely. I even took on stress and illnesses that were not my own. I enjoy speleology, but I am very sensitive about who I go with as part of a team. I feel my team’s fear, I even feel residual fear/stress that other people have left behind in the cave. It is not all bad, I also feel excitement, determination and stamina, but for some reason the negative emotions are always stronger in my perception.
I’ve now been doing a serious practice of yoga for nearly four months. So, I decided to apply the principles of yogic breathing and bandhas inside the cave to close myself off to our guide’s panick. He was doing the rigging, and he was so tense that he made mistakes and he was going very slowly. I was standing above a deep pit waiting for him to say it was ok to come down, I was secured at the same rope in another anchor point, I could feel so much of his panick through the rope. It is amazing how much energy a rope can transfer. As an empath, I try to avoid prying into people who haven’t asked me to feel them. However, it is a sense, like hearing, it is hard to not hear a loud noise next to you. Just like hearing, I can’t help feeling someone’s emotions when they are broadcasting like a satellite.
Now, the mystery of bandhas still eludes me, but I’ve come to start to feel what it is to engage the breathing along with the muscles in my pelvis, my abdomen and support my lungs with the diaphragm. This action is meant to awaken the inner energy, and focus strength while maintaining steady breathing. It focuses strength and calms the mind. In ashtanga yoga it is called Ujjayi. I am starting to understand it, so far I can only partially close my bandhas, but even that was enough to keep my integrity and calmness in that situation. After the initial bowel movement I realized what was happening, and I took breathing action to close myself off to his feelings. I avoided getting sucked into his panick.
I didn’t take his panick as my own, I recognized it as his, I kept cool, checked the knots at the anchor points as I came down. Descended slowly to avoid the rope from rubbing on sharp outcrops. In his panick at some point he didn’t know how to continue the rigging, he was trapped in a loop of insecurities and simply went back up. Left our other teammate and I to take out the rigging. I had only done it once before, I would have appreciated his advice, but he left and went up the big pit too soon. I was dissapointed that we didn’t explore further in the cave, but at that point I didn’t want to insist to him to continue, he was supposed to be leading after all.
I don’t yet fully understand why closing the bandhas helped me fence off the wave of emotion coming from him. It is perhaps the focusing of my strength that I find invigorating; and not at all a fence, but rather a strenghthening of my own presence. Perhaps, it is that it helps me turn my energy inward. I still felt his panick, but it stopped affecting me, I didn’t take it inside me.
I read a tibetan book once ‘the book of living and dying’ and in it, the monk describes practices where ‘bad’ or sick energies are taken inside the healer towards the heart center, transformed through love, and put back in the receiver as clean loving life. I wish I knew how to do that. I’ve started experimenting, and it more or less works in common situations. I stopped trying to do it after I got ill from it, I took and illness from someone else and I cured it the old fashioned way (by curing my body). Perhaps as I continue my study of ashtanga yoga I will discover more about opening up my heart center, and closing it as well when necessary.
For now, I want to end this post with a gratitude message for the lineage of ashtanga. It is saving my life, it is curing my body, it is giving me tools to deal with being sensitive, it is quieting my mind so I can hear my soul. Thanks to myself for undertaking this path. Thanks to the kind soul who teaches for free on saturday mornings. Thanks to all the teachers who share knowledge and resources online so that self-studies like me can have access to it. Thanks to all the bloggers that share their experiences with it online. Thanks to those who have transmitted and added to the knowledge through the centuries.