What should I feel?

It is a question every Yoga teacher gets asked and sometimes we foolishly and audaciously give an answer. Any therapist who tells their patient what they “should feel” would be overstepping their role in supporting a healing process toward self reliance but we speak to sensation in the body in absolutes all the time.

“Here is what you should feel”

My father, when viewing videos of me lifting, always declares he doesn’t want me to hurt myself and adds (very colorfully) “my balls would be on the floor if I did that!”

Perhaps more egregious, I have been told what I would feel at the finalization of my divorce papers and would like to add it wasn’t as predicted by passing observers.

I can tell you as someone who believes themselves to be intimately aware of sensation in my body, I believed my right glute to be activating equally to my left, only to learn it is the latest piece toward solving this 10 year knee injury/instability.

Sensation in the body: areas used, abused, worshiped and demonized all hold different meaning and significance in our internal experience. How interesting to muse upon the stories this may speak to our character or the story that surrounds our experience (perhaps a hip girdle that lacks the ability to stabilize us or perhaps a shoulder girdle inhibited in its ability to fully embrace or proclaim its presence to the world).

But: What should I feel?

Pain? Numbness?

Energy? Or lack their of?

Only you individually can know “what you should feel?” and even then!

As my teacher Nevine Michaan has so beautifully instilled in me “what feels right is often only what is familiar.” Dualities of “right and wrong” teach us nothing, but rather it is most advantageous to have maps toward the experience you wish to feel rather than feeling your way into a familiar position.

As other teachers have taught, “the map is not the territory” (Korzybski) and “some maps are better than others”(Wilson) and better at navigating different/specific terrain.

Know that any one that tells you what “you should feel” allows you only to rely on intuition, and worse yet not even your own intuition!

Intuition is a map, though it is solely your own and this single map can not fully be interpreted by any algorithm yet known to me, though some may feel differently in regards to the faith and dogmatism of their own maps. I believe we often think of people who have talents as a form of intuition, but maps/talents become outdated as new roads are paved, and without updating them we live in an endlessly confusing loop of physical, mental and spiritual culs-de-sac.

I’m asking the question where would I like to go a bit more these days, instead of, which path feels best. Sometimes the best map we have brings us through rough territory and only we can know how rough is too rough. Sometimes we are walking down a dark alley and a guide may tell us “this is the way, don’t be afraid” but this doesn’t mean we shouldn’t “feel” afraid, only that we shouldn’t become that fear. We must walk through the alley feeling our fear and using the sharpened senses that accompany it to move unabated, or we have to walk out of the alley knowing there was a better map toward our destination.

Here is to the map makers that came before us and here is to using our intuition to know that the person reading the map has our best interests at heart and has the full understanding of the territory with which we are all too acutely familiar. The unique place of our individual personal experience.

Yoga is a map, which might lead one toward more awareness but we will have a hard time helping a colorblind person see red simply by telling them to perceive it with the same eyes that looked countless times before.