I have a confession: Sometimes I rebel against yoga ….
We have all been there: we want to practice yoga but there is something stopping us. “I’ll practice tonight” we tell ourselves, or: “Maybe not tonight, maybe I’ll get up early tomorrow morning and practice before breakfast” – and then we lie in. Why do we rebel against yoga, time and time again? This is a question that is close to my heart as recently I had found myself rebelling against yoga.
I believe one of the reasons that people rebel against practicing yoga is the desire for perfection and the fear of falling short before they even start. There is a perception (often perpetrated by yogis themselves), that yoga practitioners glide through life on a rainbow cloud of bliss: somehow immune to everyday human experiences and emotions; never to get sick or injured, sad or upset, angry, proud, jealous, lazy, or any of the other Seven Deadly Sins.
It is a fallacy. Yogis, like everyone else on the planet, have all of these experiences. Let’s face it, if you are in excellent health and are naturally enlightened, then you have no need for yoga. Does that apply to anyone you know? Not me, that’s for sure. Everyone finds yoga for a reason.
Recently, I saw a yoga meme that read:
“I don’t know why people think yogis are together, we are all here because we’re mad”.
That made me laugh.
Yoga is not just my passion but it is also my business, which in itself causes conflict. I have been making changes to my business to incorporate major changes in my life, (including a new found love of the ocean and the therapeutic benefits of being with the sea through surfing).
And then I stopped.
I rebelled against yoga.
Ask yourself why you rebel against yoga:
For me, I realised I was running on a seemingly endless hamster wheel of life and work and not taking time to actually look after myself, to practice yoga in its true sense. I felt I had to ‘do’ some yoga, like yet another chore on my ‘To Do’ List.
One reason I felt this way was because I had started to post up pictures of myself doing yoga on social media. It occurred to me that I was able to ‘perform’ many yoga postures comparatively well and that it would benefit my business to share them. My ego had taken over: I wanted to do a better pose, a stronger pose, a more challenging pose – (the sort of pose that typically gets more ‘likes’).
Yet, in a short space of time I found myself rebelling against the paradigm of the ‘typical yogi’ on social media. I had to have a consistently strong personal practice, however, in reality it was not always practical: I am a solo parent, I run my own business and teach several yoga classes a day, as well as travel across the boarder to surf in Ireland several times a week… (don’t get me started on Brexit, haha). Often, I no more wanted to come home and practice sticking my leg behind my head, than I would want to stick my hand in a blender!
I was allowing myself to get burnt out. The result was that I ended up sacrificing my personal practice altogether. This slipped over into my surfing: I continued to go out – regardless of my physical condition or the conditions of the ocean – until recently (around the time of a painful anniversary for me), I found that I was paddling out back and just not surfing at all… there were surfers all around me and yet I just sat there on my board… I was on surf strike!
I realised: What was I trying to prove?
Yoga (and for me, surfing), is about the person practicing. It is therapy, it is meditation, it is not a competition. It is easy to become stuck in a rut, to feel we should do this or do that, to push ourselves too hard, to neglect ourselves. Yoga is not something to DO, it is something we ARE.
So I decided to be gentle with myself and re-learn yoga. Not the yoga postures so much as the spirit behind them. Yoga is not about the glory of the pose (though there is a sense of achievement when you become stronger, more flexible or more able). The postures are just a means towards an end: towards Union.
If the body moves freely then our energy can move freely. Conversely, when our body and energy move freely, we are able to sit in stillness and let the mind settle into self.
Lessons to learn:
My lesson was to be kind to myself (the yogic principle of ahimsa) and not put my body though too much. I had to listen to what my body and mind were telling me and not steamroll over them.
Sometimes it is good to have a strong yoga practice, sometimes a more restorative practice is needed. It is Yin and Yang. I know images of a restorative yoga practice won’t get as many ‘likes’ or follows on social media… but I’m happy to live with that. I know I will be more content. Likewise with surfing: Sometimes I will feel strong, other-times week, sometimes stormy, other times calm. As the tide ebbs and flows, what I do will be between me and the sea. That’s fine. I’ll learn not to beat myself up about it.
While it is good to explore challenging postures and celebrate achievements, yoga is only ever about the person who is practicing. My yoga is for me, just as your yoga is for you. I had to learn not to allow ego to dominate the practice and fall into the comparison trap. We are all susceptible, I see people competing and comparing themselves with others in class or on social media. However, if we look towards others to validate our yoga – the union – within ourselves … we will only ever find suffering.
If you would like to discover how to start a personal yoga practice why not checkout some of my other recent blog posts: