I've been thinking a lot lately about vulnerability and my tendency to cycle through a mental phase of opening up followed by a phase of pulling in. A post on Expansion and Contraction from new blogger, Abhyasa, gave me some more food for thought.
It's interesting to me to watch where the fear and discomfort come up.
Physically, I associate opening up with back-bending and if that is true, then physically, open is my default. I have never been afraid of "doing" back bends. I was never afraid of dropping back. I have never been afraid of kapotasana. I have "lost and found" both drop-backs and kapotasana several times now over the life of my practice, yet even when they were tight or puzzlingly inaccessible, I wasn't afraid of doing the poses.
Physically, I find back-bending, at the least, energizing and at the most, euphoric...but for a long time that post-back bend exhilaration was almost always followed several hours later by a feeling of panic...a sort of vague feeling of vulnerability, a feeling that I had opened up too much. I'd have a sudden need to both physically and mentally pull in, curl into a ball and close up. The deeper the back bends and the more of them I was doing, the greater the need to close up once the post-back bend euphoria passed.
Mentally, outside of practice I followed the same pattern: the deeper the opening up, the greater the feeling panic afterwards and the greater the desire to pull in and withdraw.
For a long time, I felt a certain amount of guilt when the openness overwhelmed me and I closed down. Why couldn't I maintain openness all the time? Why the post-openness panic?
The wisdom of the Ashtanga sequencing is slowly working it's magic and the physical ups and downs are leveling out. Mental patterns are following the physical ones. Physically, I am sloooooowly building strength to match the bendiness I was born with. I notice as the body evens out, so does the mind. There is more steadiness underneath the openness and I am extremely grateful for every bit of it.