Two-Part Series (Part One)
Oh, yoga. We love it, we leave it, and some of us may
eventually come back to it with a deeper appreciation of its multi-layered
complexity. Yoga instructor, JC Peters, recently blogged
about going “on a break” from her yoga practice. She notes that it’s not an
issue of discipline (she flosses), or lack of love for the practice (she still
enjoys occasionally playing sweet tunes and rolling around on her mat for 10-20
minutes). Instead, she’s felt “insulted” by yoga: “She’s been bossing around my
hamstrings and poking me in the belly. She has started telling me I’m not good
enough the way I am, that I need to adjust the angle of my foot, or that I need
to draw my low ribs in more, or that I should be thinking about my bikini body
as summer comes.” For Peters, Yoga Barbie was the last straw.
But is what she’s referring to really yoga? She reveals
several paragraphs down that other yoga instructors—rather than yoga—are
responsible for her perceived insults. She also cites a disillusionment with
yoga studios for failing to walk their talk; her perception of yoga teacher
peers “running themselves ragged trying to make ends meet as independent
contractors with no labor rights”; and her frustration with Yoga Barbie, “the
representation of everything yoga helped me to get away from” as a young,
anorexic teen. To support her contention that she’s far from the only person to
endure a yoga separation, she points out an
entire blog devoted to “falling out of love with yoga.”
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But, do we really fall out of love with yoga? Or, more
realistically, do we fall out of love with western yoga culture, by turns
supercilious, ageist, materialistic, and fiercely wedded to western appearance
norms and capitalism? Or, as our yoga practice progresses, do we transcend the
honeymoon phase and, as we come into more intimate dialogue with our samskaras
(the deeply ingrained templates which circumscribe our personalities,
behaviors, and beliefs), do we interpret our inevitable discomfort and
resistance as “falling out of love,” as with many deepening relationships?
Yoga is fundamentally defined as yoking: conjoining
body, mind, heart, and soul, while also integrating the disparate and
previously repressed aspects of the self. As commitment to practice deepens,
everything arises on the mat that arises in life, reflecting our innermost
selves and accompanying samskara. Tapas, the heat and
discipline generated in practice, generates an increased capacity to face
these patterns with compassion and stillness, accepting into our hearts the
birthright of fullness while appreciating
imperfections as divinely inspired.
In the day to day, however, it’s easy to forget that yoga is
just another word for living mindfully, to confuse our relationship to yoga
with our relationship to life, and thus to pin the blame for our discomfort on
“yoga” culture or practice.
Has it ever felt like you have “fallen out of love” with
your yoga practice? Did it last?