Chasing the Yoga Feels
Are You Addicted to Sensation?
I first came across the phrase “sensation junkie” in the wonderful Kate Gillespie’s class. She was breaking down a fairly simple posture, one in which people were placing themselves in unnecessary shapes to achieve a more pronounced feeling. I stood guilty as charged.
It's common to hear from students,"I don't FEEL anything". As a teacher, I have to pull myself back from responding with, “Guess what darlin', that ain’t the point!” I’ve yet to blurt this out, but it sure is tempting.
As a sensation addict myself, I get it. Yoga lovers sometimes get caught up in ‘chasing the feels’. There’s an unspoken prerequisite for a "good stretch". It’s this idea that in order for the posture to be classified as ‘good’ it needs to provide sensation. It needs to offer a scintillating experience.
Whether it’s a subtle stretch, a new feeling, or a deep release, yogis often find themselves hunting down sensations like pokémon on a street corner. This is not dissimilar to our very human tendency to seek out distractions. We collect experiences like possessions in hopes of finding happiness or at the very least, something to pull our attention away from pervasive worries, anxieties and stressors.
As you may have already guessed, this approach doesn’t really work. Just like sinking deeper into a low lunge will eventually overextend the hips and lead to possible subluxation, by running after the sensational things in life in an attempt to distract from the real issues, we end up emotionally overextended. We end up stretched too thin.
Distraction in and of itself is not bad. However, making it the main focus of life or a yoga practice will only lead back to where you started; staring down the barrel of doing the actual work. For many of us, this means building a foundation. Within the yoga practice, that involves strengthening core muscles and deepening breath awareness. Both of these tasks are not easy and hardly ever classified as ‘fun’. Afterall, who doesn’t like plank pose, or sitting still with their breath? We all adore encountering uncomfortable thoughts and emotions, right? Sign me up - said no one ever.
In life off the mat, that foundational work can manifest in many different ways. It might look like repairing relationships, taking time off, starting over, or letting go of what we know is hurting us or people we care about. But, if sensation isn’t the point, what is?
It’s discovering the calm behind the feelings. It’s seeking the place of inner quiet that over time, we learn to recognize and rest within. It’s the objective place from which we can observe the sensations as they rise and inevitably pass. It is the deep peace we get a glimpse of in Sivasana, or in the middle of a long hug with someone you trust. We are not our feelings. We are the calm place from which feelings are observed.
If you are a self proclaimed sensation junkie like me, see if you can gradually shift towards the quiet. The next time you are on the yoga mat, seek out the still moments. The in between places that are rich with peace. You may be pleasantly surprised by the outcome.
Jelayna Da Silva’s love for yoga takes her across the GTA to teach at several studios and multiple clients. Her background in Psychology and College Athletics infuses her classes with a strong understanding of how mind and body function. Her philosophy for teaching is simple; teach with love, empathy, patience and humility. www.jelaynayoga.com