Yoga is not for everyone. It’s not. In a society that can leave people feeling somewhat inadequate if they don’t join the ‘yoga trend’, so to speak, I want people to know it is OK if yoga isn’t for you. It took me YEARS to feel connected with this practice, and even now I have days when I want to crawl back under the sheets and press the snooze button rather than get up for my practice. It's confronting, it's physically challenging and I feel like the only crazy person in the world up as early as I am practicing in my living room. It doesn't sound appealing at all! I know. But there is a reason why I practice as devotedly as I do now and I assure it did not come easily. For a long, long time, I felt yoga was not for me and the reality is, it may not be for you - for now anyway.
I began yoga a number of years ago in a desperate attempt to naturally manage stress and alleviate chronic lower back pain. I’d tried running, the whole gym junkie lifestyle (thank goodness that chapter of my life is over), change of diet. I even took up dancing! (…you should know I don’t have a rhythmic bone in my body. Hello murder on the dance floor!)
Then came yoga. I learned that yoga has profound benefits for the body – in every possible way. And there really is no question that yoga is one of the most holistic practices out there that can fully support a healthier, happier lifestyle (whatever that may mean for you). So in my case, knowing this I wanted to try yoga in pursuit of my healthier, happier lifestyle. So off I went, yoga mat in hand, to my first yoga class.
As desperately as I wanted to walk away from the class feeling like some enlightened being, which all the studio flyers promise, truth is – I was in pain, I felt embarrassed and my stress had somewhat increased from before I walked into the class. I felt a little betrayed by the practice as I had expected to be shown the door to a completely stress free life, one without pain. But rather I left feeling quite the opposite. How very wrong I was..
Determined to stick with it, I kept up with my classes despite the struggle and frustration with the practice, as I kept hearing of all these incredible, too good to be true, benefits associated with yoga. I trusted that in time I too may begin to experience such benefits.
Years passed and having moved from studio to studio, (as my partner and I moved houses many times), I never felt truly connected to yoga. I felt I was trying to force myself to ‘be’ or ‘look’ a certain way. And sometimes even felt the practice encouraged me to be a little too entitled at times. What the?! Now that I was a “Yogi”, I wondered if I had the magical yoga aura floating around me which meant I was more self aware than the average person? In a world where the bandwagon of yogis are considered the "trendy" people, I wondered if defining myself as a yoga practitioner would somehow make my life better and that I was one of the more aware people out there. That maybe it was in adopting this attitude that would reveal the benefits of the practice.
Oh. Dear! Let's just clarify right here, right now - this is NOT the case. The reality is – that is all bullshit.
Yoga is not an elite practice and it won’t leave us feeling as though life is perfect or without suffering. It can’t. Rather, what I’ve learned over MANY years of self development combined with my journey with this practice, is that the opposite is true. Yoga will be all revealing of some of the uglier parts of self – and to be clear, I’m not talking physical. Yoga forces us to take a BIG step back and actually re-evaluate our lives and the choices we make daily which determine the people we are and are becoming. And to be frank, this process, this confronting experience, is not for everyone. A person needs to be open to what this practice could reveal – both good and bad – and have the courage to sit with that. To accept what they uncover and then choose how they want to address what they find.
I’m a kind person, a gentle person; and it tears me apart to see suffering in this world. But I can also be a very selfish, grumpy shit at times too. My partner will attest to that. Would I have acknowledged this about myself 10 years ago? Hell no! But what I know now, is there is so much freedom in being able to see ones’ faults because the beautiful part is, I know I can change them and continually work toward being better.
For those who struggle with the practice, are frustrated with it as I was - give it time. Don't force something you're not ready for. Rather, accept where you are right now and let that be OK. Understand you don't need to look, feel or be a certain way to practice. This is your journey and it is going to look totally different compared with the person next to you. Trust the process, allow yourself to be vulnerable and see where the journey takes you. And if you feel that it's just not the right time to practice, then accept that too. Don't judge it. Don't feel guilty about it. Let it be, for it is neither good nor bad. It just is.
I would love to hear your experience with this practice. What has it uncovered for you? How do you feel this has changed your life? And what advice would you give those people who want to try yoga but are nervous about starting?
Sending big hugs to all my favourite, real yogis out there,