junk drawers and yoga moves
I just moved to a new place. I love it, but it’s much smaller than I’m used to, so I’ve had to really streamline my life. It’s been a lot of fun getting to use my creativity to design an atmosphere that comforts and inspires, but that same creative spirit also makes me prone to clutter.
Confession: I’m a little messy, and that may be an understatement. I don’t really love this about myself, and it’s not like I enjoy the chaos of a messy space, but it just kind of finds me. Well, it’s more like every other activity usually wins out over chores, and disorder is the messy byproduct. And then there’s the fact that I have two toddlers, and they make house cleaning feel like trying to brush your teeth while eating Oreos.
In truth, I’m slightly jealous of my neat-freak friends whose homes are photo ready at all times and have tidy, well-organized sock drawers, but orderliness is not a natural strength of mine. I’m gonna need at least an hour notice before a pop-in, and for the love of God, don’t open any drawers, please and thank you!
I’ve been doing better at the new place though. Sometimes starting over completely helps. But sometimes there just isn’t a place for everything. I mean where do you put the manuals to your new vacuum and TV, the extra hardware to that dresser, your one screwdriver, and those keys that must go to something important? This, my friends, is where the junk drawer is conceived.
It is a home for those miscellaneous “essentials”. It’s a sanctuary for the discarded. It’s a place to neatly encapsulate our mess from public view.
I recently read a very strange statement: hips are the emotional junk drawer of our bodies. It immediately intrigued me and conjured images of loose batteries, old keys, and dried up ink pens rattling around inside the pelvis, and then it got me thinking.
It seems odd, but yoga teachers have long taught that the mind, spirit, and body are intricately connected, and feelings that we don’t quite know how to deal with, like traumas, stress, and anxiety often get lodged between our hips. Instructors have noted that it is not uncommon for a deep hip opening pose to release a flood of unresolved feelings. I read a story from a girl that found herself sobbing uncontrollably during one of these classes.
The fascination continued. I have tight hips myself and struggle with moderate lower back pain. I’ve also had my share of trauma and stress, so I wondered if there was really something to all of this. The yoga stuff still seemed a little hokey. I needed science to make it a more palatable. And the science did not disappoint.
Neuroscientists also believe that there is a connection between mind and body. The amygdala is the part of the brain that is responsible for holding and processing emotions and memories, but the body can do this as well through peptides. Emotional responses create peptides that can literally be stored almost anywhere in the body: muscles, organs, joints, hormones.
Examples of this include: knots forming in the shoulders from a stressful work deadline, worry or depression causing perpetually tight brow muscles or hormonal hair loss, and anger resulting in a tightened jaw or clenched fists. Since the hips are the body’s largest joints surrounded by dense muscles, it makes sense that it could be a dumping ground for these peptides. Candace Pert, Ph.D, who studied the scientific connection between the body and mind, believed that “unexpressed emotions are literally lodged in the body…trying to move up and be expressed and thereby integrated, made whole, and healed.”
I had to try it now. I looked up some hip opening poses, read about breathing, and was advised by a trainer to lay there for a while and “soak it in”.
Another confession: I’m not a workout person. I hate burn of cardio, sweating through my clothes, and that sharp sting in my side when I run. The gym is my personal hell. I did CrossFit once and thought I was going to die. The coach modified the WOD (that’s CrossFit for workout of the day) down to a preschool level, and I was still dying. But I’m a pleaser and pushed myself past my threshold as he shouted “motivations” in my ear. The next day, I had to be literally lifted out of bed, walked funny for a week, and swore to my body that I would never betray it like that again. I digress.
Yoga is more my speed. I took 2 semesters of it in college. I mean, I had to have the credits and it seemed like the easiest option for a non-athletic person, but I did actually enjoy it. And before you marathoners and lifters and fitness junkies roll your eyes at me, I will say that yoga is a very valid form physical exercise, difficult when done correctly, and has a litany of health benefits! (Can you tell I’m defensive?)
So, that night I laid on my floor in pigeon pose. As graceful as it sounds, I felt super awkward and vulnerable, and I was thankful to be in the privacy of my home. At first, all I could feel or think about was the physical, the pain of my hips defiantly resisting the position. I was now acutely aware of all the muscles in my upper thighs as they were being stretched to the max like rubber bands about to snap. I had ignored them for so long, they had become rigid and short and tight, inhibiting the movements they were designed to perform.
Trying to focus on that breathing thing, I started thinking about the emotional junk drawer. And while a flood of emotions didn’t come flowing out of me, a phrase I had read echoed through my mind: learn to sit with the discomfort.
I don’t like sitting too much, and I think we all know how I feel about discomfort at this point. I like movement and busyness, especially if I am uncomfortable. Distraction is my numbing agent of choice, my go-to when things get less than pleasant. It’s so much easier to sweep stuff into a drawer and keep moving than to stop and sort.
The peril of a junk drawer is that junk attracts more junk, and before you know it, those few random, harmless things have multiplied into a mass of rubbish. It becomes an abyss of forsaken knickknacks, serving no purpose and taking up valuable space. And while from the outside, it appears that things are neat and all together, one simple pull can unmask a world of chaos.
It seems that this may be the season of life that I’m in right now, uncomfortably sitting with my junk drawer wide open. I can think back to a few other times in life, I’ve casually sifted through it, thinking that one day I should probably get around to cleaning it out.
My junk includes things like unfounded insecurities that crept into the drawer of my unconscious decision-making, into my psyche. I push them aside when I need to retrieve something. They abide like little squatters, settled yet unwarranted. Remnants of fear are scattered in there too...of failing again, of loving again, of losing again, of being seen again.
There are other things that don’t belong in the drawer, but for a different reason. These things have a place and a purpose, but it is not amongst the junk. Untapped talents, obscured by the rubble have no place here. Some may have been in there for years, wasting away like muscles atrophying from disuse.
And if I dig all the way to the back, I can even find a few sequestered passions buried like cadavers in a casket of clutter, childlike dreams that died somewhere along the way.
Pain is a part of the human narrative. It’s inevitable and unavoidable. You can shove it in a drawer for a while, temporarily concealing life’s messy makings. You may even totally forget what is in there. But one of two things will eventually happen: the drawer will get so full that you can no longer shut it, its contents spilling over the top. Or you will invite someone into the sanctity of your “home”, where they are welcomed and comfortable, and one day they casually and unknowingly slide open the drawer that you never wanted to see, let alone be seen. This can have so many repercussions.
I don’t want that. So, here I am, sitting and sorting. I figure that I can either live with the constant discomfort of my tight hips and unresolved feelings or I can deal with the temporary burn of being stretched and pulled. I’m choosing the latter and looking at my “junk” through the lens of grace. Amazingly, Grace sits with me during the process, gently reminding to breathe through the painful mess.
And after sitting with discomfort for just a while and trusting Him in the process, the junk doesn’t look like junk anymore. Pain looks more like purpose. Remnants of what seemed to be waste weave together to form a functional fabric. Because I know the God of grace, I know this is what He does best. I know that when life has torn me to bits and pieces, I can bring my scraps and watch Him transform them into fullness and fruition.
I personally think that God is very green and despises waste, so He composts my most considerable failures and shortcomings to fertilize my greatest successes and strengths. So, if I want to do my part and achieve this outcome, I have to remember that it all starts with stillness. I have to slow down long enough to sift through the proverbial junk drawer. And as uncomfortable as it is, I have to stop for a while, lay on the floor, and stretch myself open with a quiet meditation...and maybe even a few yoga moves.
Hey! My name is Andrea. I'm a teacher by day in a small Texas town, but in every other aspect of my life, I consider myself a learner. This blog is about life: learning through experiences, sharing through stories, and growing through faith.