Have you ever felt that “don’t leave me” pang right square in your chest, in that place you didn’t know existed until you did?
In yoga class, someone is pressing your shoulders down in savasana (final resting pose) or rubbing your back as you are in child’s pose, and you never want them to leave, as if a possibility existed in some corner of the world where you two could exist like that: as giver and receiver in some dark corner. How it almost feels like the first time you have ever been touched in your whole life. You feel that safe. That wide open.
This is why most of us love being touched in yoga, especially during passive poses, when we are nothing but a receiver, a net for love. When else do we let our guards down that much? I know I don’t.
Recently, I got a massage as treated to me by my friend Katie for my birthday. This massage was much needed because, apparently, a train had been running through my head and had crashed behind my eyes, leaving me a broken heap of steel and muscle. I had subbed out my 4:00 p.m. yoga class and couldn’t leave the dark of my room until the massage appointment.
There’s a point early on in a massage when I start to obsess about when it is going to end. As early as two minutes into it. This won’t last long enough. Same when someone touches me in a yoga class, my own shoulders pinned down like some kind of stuck thing, and I think, “I know you are going to leave. You are going to get up and go, and my shoulders are going to fly back up, and I might even fly away with nothing holding me in place any longer.”
During this massage, about three minutes into it, I felt myself drifting and then catching myself right on the cliff of pleasure, wondering how much time was left. Push me off the cliff, dammit!
How can I worry about when something is going to end when it is barely just beginning?
In Bali, at one point very early in our trip, I looked around at the pool and our house in Ubud, with all the little flowers on the towels and the fried cassava in bowls by our feet, and I said, “I am sure going to miss this place.” My husband, as if I was insane, responded, “We haven’t even left yet!” It was as if it was the first time I’d noticed that fact. Oh, we haven’t left yet, have we? We are still here. We are still safe. So I ate a cassava chip, which was oddly like a potato chip, and sat back to enjoy the way it felt—the salt and the greasy crunch and the way it made me thirsty—and I wondered if everyone worried that there wasn’t enough.
Am I terrified of being comfortable? Because it won’t last?
Nothing lasts. Not forever anyway. When a teacher comes over to me at the end of a yoga class to press down on my shoulders or rub my head, I always ask, “can you stay there?” Sometimes out loud; sometimes not.
That is the crux of it all, isn’t it? Can you stay there? Can you not go? Can you make me feel safe?
I want to make people feel that way, and I think that I do, at least in some small way. That blanket of limbs and touch and non-judgment and fireplaces and glasses of wine and unparalleled listening skills and here I have you. I am not going anywhere.
I used to think I wanted things to last forever.
I remember my first boyfriend, Danny. My first serious love and one of my only serious loves and how he would call me from his dorm room in Boston and how I would lie in my bunk bed at NYU and ask him to tell me that we would last forever. He wouldn’t. A smart move. And we didn’t.
After four years, he broke up with me one February like someone with no balls! How dare you do this over the telephone after so many years? So, I got on the Peter Pan bus, a teary-eyed skinny, freezing mess and schlepped to Boston in the snow so he could break up with me to my face. And who am I kidding? I am sure a part of me (most of me) wanted to beg him not to break up with me and to tell me that he’d made a mistake. I arrived and knocked on all his friends’ doors until I found him. They’d all had that part sympathy and part “I am so glad I am not that guy” look.
I spent the weekend in his apartment in Boston curled in a ball and sobbing, and when he put my spaghetti limp body on the bus back to New York City, he hugged me for three solid minutes. (Again, I had hope. Maybe he won’t let go.) He did let go, and that was the last time I saw him for years. And that was that. We didn’t last forever, and I am glad he refused to give me that promise, even as a lie, because I would’ve thrown it in the river with him and then jumped in after it.
I do want to be touched. (Don’t we all?) But more than that, it’s what is behind the touch, what’s under the fingers and the skin. How the touch makes me feel and, even though I know it won’t last forever, what it will do, even if just for that moment, is connect me to the world and hold me in place.
What’s behind everything is love. Whether it is a fear of it, a desire for it, an “Eff you. I don’t believe in love,” or a giving away of it.
Some form of love is what beats our hearts and what carries us through those broken moments in the snow of Boston. It’s what we all want and why, when someone puts their hand on that spot on our chest or forehead (how do they always know the exact spot I need to be touched?), that we want to put our own hands on top of theirs and whisper in some secret language of the hands, “Yes, this feels right. Yes, you can stay. Yes, I love you too.”
And then your eyes open, and the lights are back, and you put on your boots or your sandals, depending on the weather, and you leave the yoga class. And you may get off that bus in NYC after a miserable eight-hour ride in the snow from Boston, and you may forget that vow to love and how good it feels, but it is there, and it will always be there.
If you let it exist as if it belongs to you. As if you deserve it.
Jennifer Pastiloff was recently featured on Good Morning America. She is a yoga teacher, writer, and advocate for children with special needs based in L.A. She is also the creator of Manifestation Yoga® and leads retreats and workshops all over the world. Jennifer is currently writing a book and has a popular daily blog called Manifestation Station. Find her on Facebook and Twitter and take one of her yoga classes online at Yogis Anonymous.
Jen will be leading a Manifestation Yoga® weekend retreat at Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health in the Berkshires, Massachusetts Feb 1-3, 2013.
*Photo by Helga Weber.