Don’t let yoga ruin your life

There is a quote from Ashtanga Yoga teacher David Swenson. “Don’t let yoga ruin your life”. And  there is a good chance it will eat away at the quality of it if you start attaching emotions to is such as guilt and allowing it to be a barometer of your self worth.  

I love yoga.  Yep, can’t get enough of the stuff.  It has truly changed my life, and me for the better. It’s made me strong, self aware, resilient, soft when I need to be, and has even helped me to have natural conscious birthing experiences. It has helped me through some of the most emotionally challenging times in my life. It’s given me a lean, strong body, a deeper sense of meaning, and sent me on a path of spiritual awareness. 

I’ve done the workshops, became an devoted student, apprentice and then teacher, travelled to the source in India, lost hours watching yoga you tube videos, I even opened a yoga studio. So much of my life has been about yoga, and now that I have two small children, I find myself preoccupied with thoughts about how to get to a class, ways to complete an uninterrupted home practice and fantasising about weeklong retreats in far flung tropical destinations. 

YET, there are periods in my life when I just cannot bear to roll out the mat and practice. With every fibre of my being I can’t bear the thought, with a resistance so strong you’d think I was being asked to enter a torture chamber. 

The reality is that sometimes when you are feeling down on yourself, or things are just not gelling, or there is some kind of heavy stuff going down, about the last thing you want to do is to do yoga and put a magnifying glass up to your shit. For me (and many others) yoga amplifies what is going on internally. What ever is going on in the mind be it subconscious or conscious, it shows up for me on the mat. I consider myself to have a reasonably healthy self esteem, and generally feel good about myself. But I’ve had to work on that level of self-esteem, hard. There are periods of life however where I am plagued with negative subconscious and bubbling conscious thoughts of my perceived inadequacy.  Of course I know these thoughts to be untruths, but when you are working with a deeply ingrained self-belief system, it’s hard to fight them. 

So what are we to do when the mat taunts you, rolled up in the corner.  Here’s what I do:

 Acknowledge without judgment: Yes there is a resistance. Not good, not bad just is.  It does you no good whatsoever to not practice and on top of it, beat yourself up for not doing it. 

Take time out if you need it: Are there other things you can do to help you to connect in with your higher self? Take some walks in nature, create some art. Look into other modalities such as massage, or kinesiology. 

Get inspired: Maybe you need to shake it up a little. For a long time my personal practice has been Ashtanga Yoga, but lately I’ve been getting into Vinyasa, enjoying the spontaneity of the practice and actually having FUN practising.  Coming from such a devotional and disciplined background  it’s easy to forget it’s ok try something different, it may be just what is needed. Perhaps if you practice a certain method or with a certain teacher, it could serve you to look at yoga from a different angle, try a new style or teacher. Having said that I feel quite strongly that there are times when you feel like walking away from your teacher or practice are the times when you need to stick to it the most. It’s a matter of being able to tune into your inner wisdom to define the difference between the two. 

Just start:  I posed the question to David Swenson recently in a workshop, what if you can’t stand to look at your mat. His wise reply was, just roll out the mat, and do a little bit. Even if it’s just 3 rounds of sun salutes, you’ve “done your practice, do it’ because it makes you feel good, not because you feel guilty not doing it”. Makes sense huh? Once you start with a little, it’s likely you will want to do more when your body remembers how good it feels, and you connect in with your breath. You break the energy of the resistance against the practice if you just start, it looses it’s power. 

Trust: If yoga is your friend, has been your rock, it’s not going anywhere, and maybe you do need the break away from it that you are imposing on yourself. Trust that it will flow back into your life when you need it, and if it’s something that no longer serves you, trust you will find a practice that will. Be open to whatever unfolds. 

Don’t over analyse, just practice: If you are eating yourself up with guilt for not practicing. Take heed, and practice already, you know you will feel better. Guilt is one of the lowest level emotions, don't do it to yourself.

Above all be mindful about what is really going on, and go into your self-enquiry to find out the truth of why this is happening. Svadhyaya – study of thyself.  But please be kind, and be loving  to yourself and bring consciousness to what’s coming up for you.  


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