I’ve really been into heart openers and backbends in my yoga practice lately. Camel pose is my favorite:

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I used to be all about hip openers because they feel so good, but I think I know what’s behind my newfound devotion to heart openers. Last year, I saw a counselor for a few sessions to work through my grief over my second miscarriage. One of the first things we talked about was the way the body holds onto stress — oftentimes you can feel your stress physically, somewhere in your body. I’ve heard from several yoga teachers that our bodies hold onto stress in our hips, but for me, it’s in my heart. Every time I have thought about my grief as a physical sensation, I have felt it in my heart. Sometimes it feels literally like something is clawing to get out.

So as I move through my three-plus weeks of daily yoga, I’ve been spending a lot of time and focus on heart openers and backbends, with the thought that whatever is clawing to get out of me will have a bit more room to move around. Intense poses like camel, which opens your throat, and pigeon, which stretches through your hip flexors, can wind up bridging the gap between emotional, spiritual and physical, leaving you with a whirlwind of emotion as you come out of the pose — you can feel like laughing, or find yourself in tears. Pigeon hasn’t done that for me, but camel does.

Coming out of camel pose tonight, I felt that something clawing to get out of me. It felt like whatever it is is too big for my body, can’t be contained within it — like it wants to scream its way out of me. (Maybe this thing is just that — a scream.) But I realized that part of it — what I felt tonight — is joy. I felt joy in camel pose. It’s a messy, complicated sort of joy, maybe even a hesitant sort of joy — but it is there inside me and I know it now.

I’m feeling a really confusing kind of happiness these days — I’m so happy with my life right now, but it’s almost like I don’t know how to experience or feel it. But with more days spent on my yoga mat, breathing deep, shutting off my brain and connecting more deeply with God, I will start to figure it out.

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