I lay on the floor in Savasana; my body and mind are here. I breathe in and breathe out. Here I am.
Getting back into my body is scary. Emotions fight and flee challenging me to dissociate. It is grand escape, dismantling my desire to stay present. Practicing yoga brings me back into the awareness of the moment, feeling the breath move from the back of my throat, out through my nose and back in. Holding postures, resting and reflecting brings my mind into my body, giving me tears and laughter. To feel emotion is a gift. For 20 some years of life I’ve lived without wide emotional spectrum. Friends and family would just smile and say, “Oh Anna is just not sentimental,” and “She is tough,” or “She is a real strong girl.” Of all comments, “real strong” is a repetitive statement voiced by many of which I meet.
Real strong is a conjunction of words, bound together to elucidate the description of brutal resistance. A phrase that gives us language for the one that is able to withstand supreme challenge due to an irregular might.
Although coined with the phrase, I do not feel ‘real strong’ most days; in fact most of my journey I do not recall feeling particularly sturdy. Practicing yoga teaches me to see where I am strong and how I am growing stronger.
As I move through the poses I consciously engage each muscle, building strength. I’ve known that my body is flexible, but today I realize that I am strong.
Last week I took a Bikram yoga class. My journal entry the next day read, “Ever since I took yoga yesterday I’ve been somewhat sad. Just feeling my body, my emotion. It is sad.”
At the end of class we are brought into the final resting pose, Savasana. Lying flat on my back, the instructor commissioned the students to rest. As each muscle released, I began to weep. Tears rolled down my face. I had no memory to pair with the response, just tears. Lying on my back I had to arise my body to Balasana, child’s pose because lying on my back was too overwhelming to hold. I wept. My body was there and so was my mind.
Of my childhood, I have little recollection of the joyful or sorrowful stories, making it difficult to embrace my feelings concerning little Anna. Having an emotional response in yoga class relieves my soul.
I wonder what it will be like for the boys that will come to The Anchor House. How might they rest emotionally into their bodies and do so with kindness? Raped by hundreds, thousands of men; they’ve been mauled. Getting back into their body after they’ve preferred to leave is the solution that could appear to be the antonym and yet it is the antidote.
Real strong makes the most sense to me when separated. One cannot know their strength if they will not face what is real and what is true. Resting in real strength is settling in who we are today and believing it is powerful and good. The ability to hold who we are, is the mark of a true strong warrior.
One of my yoga instructors stated during class, “When you find the right place, you can be still and rest.”
To be real strong is daring to allow emotion to rest in my body. In my joy or even in anger, will I allow my body and emotions to intertwine gracefully emptying into presence? With all I am I want to flee; yet I desire to exist in the now. Letting my soul seep slowly, steadily allowing the flow to ground my core and unraveling the warrior that God is calling me to be. That is what real strong is, the genuine reality that we are held graciously by The One whom bares strength.
Anna Smith is Co-Founder and Executive Director of Restore One, where she works diligently on their chief project, The Anchor House. The Anchor House will be the first shelter in the nation designed to meet the needs of sex trafficked and sexually exploited American boys. Anna has a resilient passion to see sex trafficking victims experience true healing and restoration. In her spare time, Anna enjoys biking with her husband Chris, reading, cooking, throwing pottery, running and yoga. Learn more about Restore One here.