Monday, April 9, 2012

Singing the Yoga Blues


What is yoga?  What are the benefits of practicing yoga?  There are many answers to these questions, many of which are based in misconceptions.  Some believe yoga to be an over-glorified stretching class, others would say it’s sacrilegious to practice, and many spread rumors that yoga will make you happier. 

I hate to say it, but I think the idea that yoga will make you happy is the biggest myth surrounding yoga. 

Because it won’t, actually, yoga won’t “make” you anything.  It won’t wreck your body, it won’t make you feel good, and it won’t make you healthy.  I bet I’m sounding like the worst salesman on the planet right about now, but...

Yoga is a tool similar to a knife.  Without a hand and consciousness the knife isn’t capable of anything, it’s just a a sharp piece of metal, but with human action the knife can be used to prepare a meal, or to even hurt someone. 

Most people come to yoga thinking it will provide some happiness.  Whether it’s in releasing the knots of a stressful day, gaining flexibility, growing stronger, or loosing some extra weight we are looking for something in hopes we will be happier for it.  Many will fall in love with yoga and almost as many will become unsatisfied with their practice, and find that they are once again searching for something more.  

It seems so many of us repeat the words, “if I could just be/do/have _____, I could finally be happy,” as if it were a mantra that would grant our wishes to capture the elusive creature we call happiness. 


Do you ever find yourself thinking you could be happier if you just mastered a certain pose?


Several months ago I began to feel somewhat cynical towards the yoga practice and community.  While, I still enjoyed teaching I had become very dissatisfied with my personal practice, and even began asking if I was setting my students up for the same disappointment.  At the height of my cynicism I had been invited to go to Wanderlust, and when I returned home I was refreshed and inspired…for about a week. 

But soon after, I felt more discouraged and frustrated than ever.  I sought out new sequences, read books, tried harder and harder poses only to feel a temporary happiness that could be more accurately described as distraction.   Recently, still on my quest to reconnect with my passion, I was listening to an older episode of the Yoga Peeps podcast when guest Hala Khouri shared some insight into her practice saying:

“I’m not interested in fancy yoga anymore I’ve had both my feet behind my head, and know what, I wasn’t any happier.”

Her words struck me like a bat to the head, and AH-HA, I realized yoga wasn’t going to make me any happier.  Oddly that made me…happier.
 
Photo provided by: Lululemon Athletica

Mostly, I realized yoga never made me happy, but that it allowed me to put my burdens on the yoga mat so that I could cultivate space in my heart to grow, and be light.  It taught me to be accepting of who I am, and to treat myself with compassion.

However, somewhere along the line I forgot these simpler ideas of yoga, and found myself wrapped up in this crazy notion that if I could just conquer acrobatic like asanas I would be somehow better off.  I found that for me happiness isn't putting my legs behind my head, but in loving the more mundane details of life. 

How do you reconnect with yourself when you're feeling cynical about your yoga practice or anything else in your life?

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