DISCLAIMER: If you abhor sarcasm, are easily offended, or have no sense of humor, please do not read this.
Last week, I started to hate yoga, the thing I practice and teach on an almost daily basis. Well, that's a lie. It's been more like years.
Of course, I don't mean I hate yoga. In fact, when I look at the discoveries I've made, I actually love yoga even more (see more about that word LOVE below). I love the journey and how it plants me face to face with my judgments and weaknesses and cuts right through the ego. I love that it makes me question and look at myself and wonder "how can I be more compassionate, without becoming the new age hippie (which is one of the things I hate)?"
Here is a laundry list of things involving yoga that I have hated at one point or another over the last couple of years or so (and hate, obviously, is really too strong a word - hopefully, I really just mean frustrated by, annoyed with, irked by...):
- Yoga Fashion - being a yoga teacher, I get most of my clothes from thrift stores and/or clothing swaps. Occasionally, I get gifted a pair of Prana pants - hooray!
- Yoga "Cures Everything" articles - depression, overeating, social awkwardness, cancer, heart disease, the world. Apparently, yoga is the only thing we need to be happy, healthy, perfect humans. And yoga teachers are perpetually happy, unworried beings that never bite their nails or have gross feet.
- Studio and/or teacher competition: Really? I know we all have to pay our bills, but can't we be supportive, instead of "my brand of yoga is better/more spiritual/more anatomy based/deeper entrenched in tradition/cooler than yours" rhetoric? Are we politicians all of the sudden? Let's be civil and maybe even go to each other's classes.
- Yoga based only on Asana: One cannot ignore the fact that there are other aspects to this practice. Please don't restrict a teacher from teaching a little philosophy and/or chanting OM.
- Yoga that rejects asana and claims it is not necessary: So, moving the body is not necessary? Okay, fine, call it "stretching" instead, if you will, but I'm pretty sure the body is pretty important, especially if you want to sit in mediation for 3 hours a day.
- Yoga that has way too many rules: What happened to "freedom?" Yes, yes, yes. "freedom requires boundaries," but who says which rules are better and that one person practicing one set of rules is more in darkness than someone else practicing another set of rules? This is starting to look way too much like religion for my taste.
- Weekend teacher trainings (this is just a personal rant): Mine took 2 years and it irks me a tad that I get paid the same (or less) than someone who took their teacher training in a weekend.
- "Feel Good" yoga: Actually, there is light and there is darkness and a whole spectrum of in between and we should be okay with that - on and off the mat. No need to always feel good, smile while doing a really hard asana, burst your heart open to love, or always be joyful. Be human. And respect and love your other humans for doing the same. Then there's that word. Love. It's such a small, yet complex word. And I think it means something different than feeling happy all the time. I think we all know this. I hope so.
- My way or the highway yoga: Same as the rules yoga. "This is the one and only way of doing things, because that's how yoga is." Nope. Actually, there are a lot of other ways.
Then I realized that be being annoyed/hating the above things, I was myself becoming judgmental and "holier than thou," which is the exact thing I was irritated by in the first place. And once again, it comes down to compassion. Which, I must admit, has to be one of the hardest (and thus, most important, right?) things to practice. Compassion for every single person and every single path (and not in the "I have compassion for you because you haven't yet reached my level of spiritual maturity and righteousness" kind, which is another pet peeve).
The bottom line (for me), is that we are individuals and that each person connects to a different aspect of yoga than every other person. Yet we are all also interwoven and connected in this beautiful, complex web of life and community, and yoga. And this is a GOOD THING. So, we should all respect each other's paths, thank God (or goddess or the Divine or whatever!) that there are 5,000 yoga studios and styles to choose from, and love one another with our whole hearts, even if we are imperfect beings that sometimes feel the need to write an entire blog post about this topic. ;)
To my students, teachers and fellow practitioners: I Love you all, and that love is complicated and crazy, just like life. Thanks for being on the ride with me.