Yoga As Battleground

Two-Part Series (Part Two)
Why does disillusionment
sometimes occur after immersion in yogic practices
, and why does it send
many of us running for shelter from our once-beloved practice? The answer lies
in yoga’s seminal scripture, the Bhagavad
Pandava prince Arjuna asks the Supreme Lord Krishna to drive his
chariot into battle, only to face the dismal
prospect of engaging in combat his family, teachers, and friends at Krishna’s
behest. At the Gita’s conclusion, Arjuna surrenders fully to Krishna and
takes up the sword. The Gita
teaches us that to engage in the path of yoga and align with the divine, it
will not be easy. Indeed, at times our inner state will feel much like a
battleground, as old mental patterns (samskara) struggle to reassert their

Modern life lacks chariots, but the Gita’s teachings are
salient as ever. When yoga begins to churn old patterns and emotions to the
surface, an internal battleground arises, pitting mind and ego comfortable with
their uncaptioned presence against the transcendent Lord Krishna (authentic
self, divine, inner wisdom) in us all. We can choose to commit ever more fully
to the battle, to living in truth and integrating our shadows, or we may decide
that yoga no longer feels “fun” or “positive” and so move to something

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This battleground is not only internal; western yoga culture
provides infinite opportunities to experience yoga as a battleground. The
philosophy of tantric yoga espouses our innate perfection, wholeness, and
divinity. Yet yoga culture can sometimes generate feelings of “not enoughness.”
While Indian sadhus commonly evaded attire, here it sometimes feels like a
major investment to start a yoga practice (Jade mat, Lululemons, retreats,
workshops, etc).

At its best, yoga gives us permission to roll around on our
mats, listening to whatever we want, as
for instructor JC Peters
. It doesn’t poke at or insult, but instead
facilitates greater self-acceptance. Conversely, yoga culture (and to be fair,
some of its representatives) and our societal hedonic treadmill is likely to poke and insult us on
occasion–in asana, media representations, and the relentless dogma of
self-improvement that is counter to tantra yoga’s deeper teachings.

Often environmental triggers from yoga culture intersect
with our samskara, generating another battleground. When triggered by a teacher
or approach, feeling “not enough,” this is a mirror to our internal samskara.
While the kneejerk reaction is to outsource blame externally, acknowledging the
source of the discontent as internal and integrating this wisdom represents
taking up the sword, as did Arjuna.

When we take the perspective that yoga is just another term
for experiencing our innate fullness, the term “falling out of love with yoga”
becomes an oxymoron. Taking up the sword means confronting our deepest fears
and patterns, which can lead to fleeting despair or hopelessness. Illustrated
by Hindu’s pantheon of gods and goddesses, by turns light/saintly
and dark/beastly
yet united by love for their devotees, yoga’s path is through the flames,
embracing all of who we are with the warm compassion of a mother to her child.

Have you ever experienced an internal battle with your yoga practice?

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