What is Truth; An exploration into the meaning of Arikshitah

Lesleigh Guinn, RYT 200

By Lesleigh Guinn, RYT 200

Arikshitah; अरिक्स्हितह्e  means “Unprotected or Vulnerable”, in Sanskrit. 

There’s a whole slew of asanas (poses) that can evoke the feeling of vulnerability. Standing backbends tend to make people uneasy, understandably. You’re essentially doing a trust fall with yourself. Frog, pigeon, dragon (just to name a few), they tend to also bring a lot of emotions up. 

All of this is normal, because all of us are human and all of us have experienced trauma of some sort, in our lifetime. We as humans tend to take our present self away and in doing so we often comment, saying things like “ If I could have……I would change…” we say these things because we can not control the situation at present, many times it’s because we never resolved these uneasy feelings and truths from our past. We say these things because we want more power than we already were given in the situation and we want to change things. Regardless of the trauma, regardless of the truth at hand of the situation, there is always a duality between the power that we have in our truth and what we choose to speak and hear. There is also the vulnerability we choose to honor, and be honest with ourselves and the world and allow ourselves to be humans and admit we are not infallible, but to grow from our past, and not to allow the past to haunt our present day activities.

The purpose of power is to HONOR those and that, which is vulnerable, never to purposefully harm it. In yoga you know your limits. I know I say that at least 5 times every single class I teach. Think about that limit. Can you define your limit? For example; If your knee is injured, there was trauma and there will be accommodations for time and healing that needs to take place before you are able to practice yoga fully again. The same thing goes for trauma we choose to ignore and “forget”..

I am always amazed at how many limits of my own are mental.

Bakasana (crow pose), for instance. I will completely check out mentally and physically during a class when that pose is called. Crow is a complete mental hurdle that I keep choosing not to jump over. It’s fear. I have realized what caused that fear, and for the record- I have been able to do crow and I CAN do crow, I just don’t like it. I have reason to have fear. I fell, when I was running at the age of four and knocked four of my teeth back into my gums. It was very traumatic, to this day I have a fear of knocking my teeth out.I don’t remember it actually happening, I just remember my mother to this day still terrifies me with the story. It is something in my past that I have allowed to define me and has been part of me up until I was 39 years old…. and finally, after 10 years of trying to overcome my crow fear, it happened! When it actually counts, during my Yoga Teacher Training. I overcame my fear. I knew my strength and the knowledge that I’ve gained since the age of four and I did it. A fear I have had and truly believed for 35 years, I believed in myself, and I did it. Still I know my limits. I know when I do too much on my injured knee, when too many boats are too much for my sacrum (that I fractured one month before YTT began).. I don’t let those limits define me, anymore. .

 I honor my strength and knowledge and know that I always have so much to learn and so much to gain. 

In yoga, in everything. We can’t continually allow ourselves to dwell in this vulnerability and fear of the past. Enjoy and honor the present. Most importantly allow yourself to be vulnerable. 

In Kino MacGregor’s book, “The Yogi Challenge”, she writes; “whatever our roles may be in life, our greatest responsibility is navigating our complex roles.” Allow yourself to be vulnerable. If we constantly bring the past into the present, that’s completely unproductive. Living your truth, in the present is the gift that we can give to others. To constantly try to do better and to be better people not for others, but for ourselves. Allow yourself to be vulnerable, to practice Akishitah. Whatever your situation is in your mind, YOUR TRUTH is beautiful. 

Here is a little “snippet” of my truth. Yes, my personal truth. I don’t think I would be writing this if it weren’t for yoga. I wouldn’t. Part of the entire practice of “arikshitah”, in and of itself, I’d never have known. I am sharing this in hopes that others that may have experienced similar things to what I have and grown from to help. I have shared some of this with friends, not many. 

My childhood was pretty perfect, on the outside looking in. I am an only child. My dad was an only child and his mom, my Granny lived with us from the time I was 7, until she passed away of breast cancer when I was 17. My mother was a work-a-holic. My mom was a good mom. All My friends knew how sometimes she had some “moments” and that’s just the way things were. My mother suffers from life long mental illness, that I allowed to define my existence. I rebelled against her and myself for years, with toxic relationships, addictions, and eating disorders throughout my life that still plague me to this very day. Most of all, shame. When I moved here with my husband nine years ago. From the city I grew up in for 32 years, I planned to do more, do better and to be free from the life I knew. I was going to be an entire mountain range away from my mom! Everything was going to be new and fresh. Life doesn’t work like that. Until I allowed myself to realize why I was choosing the same toxic choices, to enable the same toxic behaviors I learned from my past, to cope- Then change would NEVER come. 

 Recently, I suffered a mental breakdown. Admitting that in our society is HARD. As a stay at home mother of three sons, I don’t think people realize how much a SAHM actually does. It is exhausting. Not only physically, but mentally because you know your children better than anyone- and you want to do everything you possibly can for them. “do it for the kids”… I skipped meals, skipped yoga, skipped nights of sleep. It all came to a head, one year after my Dad passed away. I learned that he isn’t my biological father. It crushed me. My mother and I have always had a challenging relationship. 

Deep down, for my entire life I have stuffed these words of truth, these strong feelings and myself as I truly know me, into a place way back in my mind. I found out this news one year after my Dad died. I allowed this truth to completely, and suddenly define me. My mother lied to everyone, even herself. Her lies, are not MY truth. None of that changes the fact that my Dad was truly an angel. He was so encouraging of me to ask more questions, and always,”underpromise, and over-deliver!” he lived by that phrase. I am so blessed to have had him in my life. None of the story of how I came to be on this earth changes the fact that my Dad was the man that was proud that he raised me to be exactly the person I am today. He loved me something fierce and amazing, he shaped me into the quirky, curious, social and strong woman that I am. I am so honored to be his daughter. Nobody could ever take his place. I also know my Dad would not be okay with me being sad, about or dwelling on any of this.

I allowed myself for SO SO SO long- TOO long, to only be vulnerable and live in the past. Being outspoken about things I know nothing about, and ignoring the obvious. Obsessing over how hurt my Dad would have been had he ever known, how mad I was at my mother for lying and cheating among so much more, and it literally broke me. Because none of those thoughts, worrying about my (deceased) Dad’s feelings, and “what if’s”, and trying to change myself just for “Family” to even allow me to be known about, and hiding and losing myself more along the way. It all was too much. Presently, as a yoga instructor, as a wife, and as a mom of three young boys- none of this serves me any good to even think about. When we moved here, and I was a “whole mountain range away ” from my parents, and 9+ years later, I realized I’d forgotten something very important , that my Dad taught me. That God put me here for a reason. That my life is a lesson, and taking the high road is so much easier. I can dwell in someone else’s lies, and let that triggering behavior begin the toxic cycle of behaviors that have never done me any good. OR- I can and continue to try to honor MY truth and MY blessings today, in the present. Most importantly to never forget that grace and vulnerability got me to where I am, right now. 

To others, I’m often seen as “too much” and eccentric. I am. My life has been too much for me, to the point I felt waking up wasn’t anything I was interested in. Name a major traumatic event, I’m pretty sure I’ve lived it. I am not trying to one up anyone. My life is full of crazy and full of growth. I’ve made a lot of bad choices, I’ve tried to dull the feels with pills, wine, friends, clothes, anything to not be present. Thankfully, I am still here. I know that all those moments, of finding out the truth after so many lies, has made me stronger and shaped me into who I am today. All those feelings I have brushed off my entire life, I was never wrong. I ignored my gut feelings and even curiosity for years, I wasn’t wrong. That was probably harder for me to come to terms with than anything. All the emotion and the feeling of realizing “I wasn’t wrong, I’m not crazy.” I also know that I am not anything or anyone to be ashamed or embarrassed about. I’m not ashamed of who I am. It’s still me. Whatever actions and circumstances that took place, that brought me here to this world is not the story I care to speak about. Quite frankly, it’s stomach churning to say the least. The reason it sickens me is because, I know better, and for that I am grateful. Knowing that, and finding peace in all the chaos of today, allowing my truth to be spoken and taken as it will without care and instead of worrying, for today- allowing joy into my day with my children, and my family for me- that is what is important. That is what is worth waking up to. I have to practice this daily. So I can be the best version of myself to myself. My kids and husband love me I have to love me too.

We expect those in power- our leaders, and especially our parents to honor our vulnerability, never to harm it. The feelings of hurt and anger stay. Over time, we learn to keep secrets and feelings deep inside. We ignore our cues we get for our bodies. Those moments in a dreaded pose, or even in life, where we lose our breath. When the wind is knocked out of you… That breath is still worth taking now. For yourself. Breathe. All the emotions we let go to that corner, or place in our mind, they are all still there if you never work through those, and allow yourself to cry, or do the deep workout, or have the talk you know you don’t want to have, but need to. 

If we want to heal, we have to accept the disruptions in life.  

My path to yoga was like many others, I came to find peace and to escape my crazy life. My practice over the last 12+ years has taught me that yoga is not an escape, yoga is a path. It’s a journey you must approach with great patience. (FYI- Lululemon doesn’t sell patience…) There is peace that comes with yoga, when you truly accept yourself, ALL of yourself. I am amazed at the things my body can do, and it’s no different than the body you have. If something bothers you, find out why- think hard, let the emotions occur and allow yourself time to know that today is going to be better. Honor your power, AND your vulnerability. Honor your intuition, your gut feelings, know and express your truth. Who else knows you better than yourself? It doesn’t matter if anyone else doesn’t like it, because they have their own truths as well, none of us are perfect . Be gentle to others, but most importantly, show and give yourself grace, more than you give others. Remember you are stronger than you think. Your truth is powerful and beautiful.