Most of us come to yoga because we are looking for something. More flexibility, less stress, peace, contentment, the list goes on. And this is what yoga promises, right?
We see the pictures all over the media of the bendy gal with a blissful smile on her face, most likely on a beach with a beautiful sunset behind her, and we think, “I want that,” and “I need that.” So we go to our first yoga class and, maybe if we are lucky, by the end of savasana we get a taste of some relaxation, a glimpse of the fruits of the practice.
We want more. We keep coming back.
We are feeling good, happy, less stressed. Then one day out of the blue, we leave our practice and we feel grumpy, angry, frustrated. We lash out at someone we love for no good reason. This isn’t right! This isn’t yogic. What happened to my bliss? Suddenly we aren’t so sure about this yoga thing. Yoga is supposed to bring me relief from these kinds of feelings, not take me directly into them. It is supposed to be a direct path to inner peace, not inner turmoil. Perhaps this sounds familiar.
During my time teaching yoga I’ve found that one of two things happens when a student has this kind of experience. One: they blame the yoga. Two: they blame themselves. It may shock you but I would say that both are correct. It is yoga, and it is you.
Yoga brings us in direct contact with ourselves and the reality of our life. It shines the light of our awareness on what is really happening under all the layers of guarding, busyness, and distraction. Sometimes what is really there is joy and sometimes what is really there is grief or anger or jealousy.
So you see…it is you. Because you are human and so am I. And part of being human is experiencing all of these emotions. Not just the ones we deem “yogic.”
I truly believe it is good news when the illusion that yoga will always make us feel better is broken. It means we are getting somewhere on the path. The practice is working. The hard part is to stick with it. It calls upon all of our courage to meet ourselves in our humanness, to move into the darkness as well as the light. It asks us to trust the practice.
If we really want a fuller life, a life where we are gaining wisdom and insight from our experiences this is the only true way. We must accept that we have negative emotions, darkness, and feelings we’d rather not look at. And then recognize that we are not wrong, terrible people, or bad yogis. We are real, we are human beings navigating what it is to directly engage with this life.
Often along the way we find ourselves in uncharted waters, and it is in these times that our yoga practices are most valuable, even if it was yoga that led us there in the first place. The yoga is the map and the journey.