Learning to Trust the Intuition Yoga Teaches Us by Gina Matranga
For most of my life I’ve been a Type A people pleaser. My actions were easily dictated by the opinions, wants and needs of others, and I rarely paused to consider what role I really played in the unfolding of these events. I did have my own opinions, but I really tried to make them match up with my friends or those around me to perhaps make them feel more comfortable or validated. I wanted everyone to get along, I wanted everyone to be happy, and I definitely didn’t want to be the cause of someone else’s frustration. On top of this, I struggled with self-confidence, despite growing up in a loving and supportive home and community. I felt that I needed to be really smart, be a good athlete, always make the right decisions, be nice, smile, be a good sister, be a good daughter, and generally exceed others’ expectations of me. This didn’t really leave a lot of room for failure, or room to experiment with who I was and what I wanted. Again, I can’t pinpoint where these feelings came from, but they developed over time and I still carry some of these feelings with me.
Most people wouldn’t know this about me, because I come off as very easy-going, but I’m a pretty anxious person. I worry a lot, about all sorts of things. When something stressful or unexpected happens, my mind quickly jumps to thoughts like “But I have to fix it! I have to make it better! This all fell apart because of me!” In these circumstances, when we begin to catastrophize things, it can be hard to pull oneself out of this negative mental state. Some people can be told to ‘let it go’ when these stressful situations arise, and that works. For others, like me, the idea of ‘letting it go’ just seems impossible.
I was fortunate enough to find yoga when I was about 16 years old, and now nearing 30, I’m still learning about all the benefits of the practice that accompany the asanas such a deep breathing, mindfulness (being aware of one’s subjective conscious experience moment-to-moment) and intuition. These practices have now become essential in my daily life. The last one—intuition—is a big one for me, and if you’ve attended any of my yoga classes, you’ve probably heard me talk about it. Intuition in a yogic sense is our inner teacher that knows what we need. Sometimes we can think of it as “trusting your gut”. It is up to us whether or not we listen to our inner teacher, but learning to activate our feeling or emotional mind and quiet our thinking mind can go quite a ways in this practice. The first step I needed to take to listen to my inner teacher was to learn to make time for myself, and then sit still. I needed to learn to sit with the discomfort that I’m not perfect, that I will make mistakes, that I might piss someone off, that I will encounter rejection and failure in my life, that I can’t fix everyone else’s problems, and that is all ok.
For a long time I didn’t really listen to intuition. I’m not sure why that was exactly, but I’m pretty sure it had something to do with wanting everything to go smoothly in my life, and if I listened to that intuition, it might sometimes *gasp* go against what others expected of me, or that my intuition might lead me away from a safe, comfortable existence toward something challenging and different. This has been my recent experience with applying to graduate school. Intuition says, “Go for it! This challenge will be so good for you, and you will be so good for it!”, But ego and the old unreasonable expectations say “Well if you don’t get in, you are a failure and you have let yourself and others down. Don’t even try”. What a terrible thought process right?! By practicing mindfulness, setting time aside for myself and my healing, I am able to keep these negative, anxious thoughts at bay, and trust that things will take care of themselves. At some point, us anxious folks just have to tell ourselves we’ve done all we can, and we truly have to trust that life will go on. We are not in charge of the universe.
I still work with my anxieties, and I still have some of the same people-pleasing qualities, but other parts of my former self have softened. I stick to my guns a little bit more, so to speak. I do like it when I can help others feel happiness, but I’ve learned that that will not come at my expense. I will not let my mental or emotional health suffer to make someone happy. I’ve learned to put myself first a little bit more. I’ve also been reminding myself that it isn’t really my job to make others happy. As the saying goes, “happiness is an inside job”.