Saturday, May 14, 2011

My Guilty Yoga Secret...

Since Winter my yoga practice has been leaving me feeling empty. I've soldered onward, practicing about once or twice a week. I've had a few amazing practices, but instead of weekly discovering new sequences or being inspired by new asanas and teachings, I've just grown increasingly disenchanted.

It's almost embarrassing to admit, but it feels like I've been carrying around this terrible dirty secret from everyone the past six months or so. I don't worship yoga anymore, it's not something I want to do every single day anymore. I'm glad I didn't take Yoga Teacher Training, mostly because I don't agree with so many aspects of the training here in Halifax. It's no longer the centre pathway to connect with my concept of the Divine.

Not to be all whiny, but I miss yoga. I do. It's like my body and heart knows there's something missing (tu me manques!), but I can't seem to motivate myself to get off my butt and practice. Yogaglo no longer holds as much appeal. I've started resenting and have become jealous of those yogis I see walking down the street with their yoga mats, going or returning from a yoga class. How dare they love yoga? How dare they afford the 18$ a pop classes?? BOO THEM (lol, my little tantrum is usually internal... and probably makes me officially 2 years old).

I can't believe I used to secretly judge those people who call themselves 'yogis' and never practice (even if it really was just minutely, I swear). I haven't practiced yoga since Montréal... which was over two weeks ago. Yesterday, instead of choosing to practice yoga, I chose to play some guitar. It was either one or the other.

In about 35 minutes I'm putting on my yoga clothes, rolling out my mat and will try to find a fast moving, mind numbing practice to try to beat the practice back into my Self. Hah, I know, kinda sounds counter-intuitive, but there ya go. I'm going to try setting aside a 20 minute practice three days a week to see if by sheer repetition, regardless of whether I want to or not, yoga will reconnect.

I'm also hoping for yoga in the park to save my practice. I'm so friggin' tired of practicing in my living room. We haven't had a sunny weekend warm enough to practice since Easter weekend. And Andrew and I were home with my parents visiting.

So sorry guys for the downer post. Anyone else out there share this dirty secret?


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  1. Ah, yoga's all about what you do off the mat anyway.

    (and if I tell you I'm doing Pilates teacher training you'll get an idea of where both my teaching and my personal practice are going - I'm going to have to invent a new name....)

  2. I know yoga classes are so expensive, but I think if you find a teacher that really motivates you and creates different unusual classes, you might love it again.

  3. Thanks for sharing so honestly. Did you realize you were practicing yoga's second yama, satya (honesty) in the process? See, you're doing more yoga than you realize. I agree with Rachel that most of our yoga is done off the mat. I find that my practice of 18 years ebbs and flows, sometimes being more physical, sometimes more spiritual or even intellectual.

    I am finishing a book on yoga and have had to fight off the impulse to beat myself up for "slacking off" on my yoga practice. True, while I was spending time sitting in my favorite comfy chair at my coffice dissecting the 8 limbs and yoga's intersection with other faith traditions, I may have done fewer asanas, but I have done a heck of a lot of svadhyaya (a niyama that is the study of yogic principles).

    At a conference I was speaking at someone asked if the 8 limbs were sequential or if we should be doing them all at once. I had to say that really neither was my approach to them. I try to keep them in balance on a macro level. That may mean there are seasons where I am more devotional, others where I am intensely physical. I am happy now to be coming down out of my head a bit, as the writing winds down, and re-entering my body.

    So, that is my "dirty secret." Even people that write yoga books don't always live on their mats. But they do always live their yoga off their mats. Just as I bet you're doing.


  4. There have been so many times in my yoga practice where I felt like I was living a lie. Yoga has always been something that has come pretty naturally for me- I’m extremely flexible by nature, and was strong enough from the beginning to muscle my way into most any asana. When I started my practice in 07, it was completely pure- something that helped me work through my body issues and something that allowed me to connect to my body in a healthy way. I never wanted to take a public class- completely content with my little secret passion that was just mine. About a year after I started my practice I took part in a teacher training- I wanted to share my practice. My first day was my first “real” class and the whole experience changed my life, however as I started to teach I started to loath my own practice. No longer was I able to get on the mat 5-6 times a week like I had in the past. As my teaching failed to take off (even though I was showing up to the 5+ classes a week that I was scheduled to teach, there would be many times that there would be NO students- so depressing) The longer this went on the more I hated yoga. Everything that I had loved about it got lost.. no matter how many times I would try to rekindle my relationship with it, it failed. Eventually I stopped teaching and during that time I tried to find my practice again. I started to do acroyoga, and slacklining and pilates. I met tons of people that were into “extreme” yoga practices that redefined what yoga was supposed to be to me. I actually had FUN! I started to teach again- and instead of practicing at home I would just go to every single class I could at the studio I taught at (because classes are free to take when you teach there) and eventually I found myself CRAVING yoga again- but along with that there were so many other things that I fell in love with as well. Just when things were going so much better I had a severe ankle injury- forcing me to stop my practice once again. I was completely devastated- but over the last 8 months I have worked around it, and have managed to stay connected. There were so many times that I should have given up and walked away. The point of this long winded story is that it doesn’t matter what your practice looks like on paper.. It doesn’t matter how many times you get on your mat, or the fact that you just hate it sometimes. It’s a part of life. There is ALWAYS going to be an ebb and flow to your practice- and that’s totally ok. Getting caught up in what we are "supposed" to be as a yogi is just bullshit. Bottom line. Yoga is about what we do off the mat, but it’s also about who we are in this time and place. It’s our own personal journey that is important and ever changing. Being honest is the most sensible thing to do. If you keep showing up and nourishing the practice- eventually it will reciprocate! There is no need to define who and what you are- you are just amazingly you :) Stay strong lady and find what makes you happy!

  5. Maybe playing guitar is the shape your yoga's coming in these days...
    It's a cycle, just like everything else after all.
    Sometimes I feel like having a strong practice every day, sometimes it will be virtually nothing on the mat.
    Just go with the flow :)

  6. @Rachel: it's so nice to hear from someone who has new 'yoga' type experiences. And of you course you're right... but often, honestly, I'm just not seeing the connection between what I'm doing off the mat and yoga. Or I'm just not seeing the usefulness of *naming* it yoga...

    @beth: yep yoga classes would definitely help. Except honestly, I can't afford them. And the cheaper classes don't have the amazing teachers to motivate. Ah well.

    @Monette: thank you for your supportive words! it's nice to hear that others who are completely 'IN' all the way in the yoga world have ebbing and flowing practice.
    Sadly, it's not just the asana that has drifted off... it's everything yoga. But- I think I just need to keep at 'er, perhaps yoga in the park it up, and connect spiritually through my own means to find a balance w what yoga is for me.

    @ZippyZu: thank you for your honest and open comment! Your comment is exactly how I feel about yoga right now (how you did for a while right after teacher training). I'm glad you've rekindled your joy, and I'm sending you Healing and Strength to your injury! I know from a friend who is GUMBY that having an injury to limit your practice when you're UBER flexible can be tough.

    For myself personally, as a non-gumby, I'm pretty used to being restricted in my practice, physically. But bruising my ribs a few years back, and even savasana was painful (actually, it still is but for different reasons), that was hard.

    Again, thank you so much everyone for your kind support! It's really nice to read that I'm not the only one slowly moving away or changing w yoga.

  7. ah yes, I too share your secret. But since I practice ashtanga (set series of poses, not much thinking needed) I can usually trick myself into going and just making shapes four times a week while this stage moves through me. And if it doesn't? well then that is what is supposed to happen. It will all be OK either way. As a blogger, I found that blogging about yoga was particularly upsetting me, almost more than practice (I could expound on this but then I would sound mean and unyogic!), so I've veered off topic, sometimes wildly, and that has helped too.

    Good luck and just know that whatever you are doing is the right thing.

  8. I've been there!! Recently coming back from it actually. Sometimes it was work keeping me from my mat (or that was my excuse) I began to feel as if it was a burden and just this veil of guilt. But you know, I learned that we have ups and downs in our practice. This is part of it. Sometimes your yoga might come in another form.

    I am reading "Yoga Beyond Belief" by Ganga White and there are many little jewels in this book. About practicing yoga detached from a dogma or even idea of what "yoga" is to us. Also incorporating into our daily lives. Also how to deepen your own personal practice, on your own, solo.

    A quote I like by David Swenson "Don't let yoga ruin your life" and that hit home for me. I was creating more judgement for myself for not prescribing to one style or method or getting on my mat each and ever single day.

    I stepped back and now I've come back so much more compassionate with myself. I actually find 30-40 min of asana work well for me, it is the 20 min of meditation that I crave lately. And hey...I am not going to get angry at myself for it. So take your time and you will figure out this turn in your practice. :)

  9. Not to belittle what you're going through, but it sounds like the regular ebb and flow of life. I think you're being kind of hard on yourself. Give yourself a break, and accept yourself where you are. I'm willing to bet that given time, you will return to the mat. Honestly, given the extremes of Canadian weather, and the long winter and cool spring I think what you're experiencing is normal. Take care of yourself--it will resolve itself.

  10. $18 a class, wow, what studio were you going to? Who were you planning on taking the teacher training with(the last I checked, there were 3 local options--so just curious). As for not practicing as often, that's probably normal, we all have our doubts (dark night of the yogi's soul king of thing). I went through this last year . . . just signed up for classes again, start next week. Your love affair with yoga may reignite.

  11. I feel more connected with my yoga practice now that I am NOT going to $18 yoga classes 5 times a week and now that I am not living in spandex and listening to a teacher tell me what ways to move my body in.

    I feel more genuine and legitimate practicing yoga off the mat- the actual asana practice is just a tiny paragraph in the yoga sutras- the rest is all in the mind, and how you carry what is in your mind through your heart and your actions into the world. You don't have to buy in to the hype that yoga only exists in a studio, because the reality is that yoga exists everywhere, and the real practice starts in mundane daily life- ahimsa, satya, asteya, santosha saucha, tapas, svadhyaya, brahmacharya, ishvarapranadana, aparigraha---

    practice aparigraha + santosha- non-grasping and contentment. You are a yogini~!

  12. I've had this ebb and flow myself. In fact, I'm currently in a yoga teacher training, and loving it, but am also not rushing to do asana every morning at the same time. An interesting paradox.

    Another thing for me, though, is that I have always had two paths merging - Zen and Yoga. And I'm finding that the Zen influence makes me stand out some amongst my fellow teacher training students. One of the main differences being that I'm not attached to a view that asana practice is the "main" thing - and while many of my classmates are just learning about things like chanting, meditation, and yogic philosophy, my learning curve is more about working more closely with the physical aspects of practice.

    But in the end, I think what's most important is listening to what's deeply calling you, and then going with that. And sometimes, you'll have periods where you're just listening, and being totally unsure of what to do. That's fine too, as long as you keep paying attention.

  13. @Loo: ahhh- yes at times I miss the ashtanga practice. I guess that's part of the process, just moving through the motions.

    @Flo: I LOVE that David Swensen quote. It's really wonderful to hear all these experiences of yoga-distance or ebb and flow. Thank you :)

    @Nicole: This may be a natural pause. I have been practicing for about seven years without any such a prolonged yoga-ebb though... and it's not just the physical. It's really a 'ick' on all things yoga.
    I do agree though, that our spring has sucked particularly here in Halifax- so hopefully a summer Yoga in the Park will help spark something :)

    @Grace: holy cow- both Mokshas, 108 Yoga, Halifax Yoga is 16$... even if you get a ten class pass it's typically 130$... UGH. so pricey here. And the inspiring passionate teachers don't typically teach the 5$ karma classes. So practice at home I will.
    (btw, we're going to Cathy's Sail Yoga Loft class on May 30th... :) ).

    I considered all three studios... and didn't really connect with any of them.

    @gypsy: yes- that was completely the case about two years ago. It was life changing really.

    You know what you just made me realize, though, gypsy? That instead of trying to connect all 8 limbs of yoga, the sutras blah blah w my beliefs and CONNECT with other than asana yoga?? I should just let all that go. YEP.

    You just made me realize that all that other stuff I was stressing that was irritating me- all the *other* yoga stuff beyond asana? It irritates me because I don't believe it. It doesn't resonate with me. It doesn't feel real or true.

    Instead, I'll keep the asana leave the rest. THANK YOU! :D

    @Nathan, I can see how Zen and Yoga would match well- and it's really interesting that you have somewhat of polar opposite with your classmates regarding your learning path. I've found it interesting how you're merging the two- keep writing about it! It's been helpful for me :)

  14. My practice stagnates every few months and I lose a little hope, but it manages to surprise me at the weirdest moments. I actually have trouble practicing on my own since there's no extra energy or motivation; so I hit classes and change up my teachers from day to day.

    Just last week I couldn't make myself hit a class for the life of me, but it took just one amazing hour to get me back into it (for now). I have peaks and troughs that come around every few months it seems. Sometimes you don't even need anything new to get that spark about again.

  15. I have an ebb and flow to my practice. Sometimes I feel guilty about it. Sometimes I don't.

    Are you interested in trying to find a Seva opportunity? I was able to take classes with one of my favorite teachers for free by doing the computer sign in for her at the start of class, and sweeping and organizing props after class. The studio I frequent also offers free classes for those willing to clean the studio, wash the blankets, etc. Maybe that would help? And the seva aspect connecting you more to the community might help as well? Just sharing what worked for me, and understanding that it might not work for you.

    Also, I'm a new teacher, and I know that I'm not as amazingly inspirational as some of my favorite teachers, but I still put my whole heart into my class and do my very, very best. Maybe before trying a cheaper class with a new teacher, find out where they trained? You might have a better experience depending on where their teacher training was.

  16. Let go of the guilt and let go of your expectations, whatever they may be. Embrace the ebb and flow.

  17. I think this is completely natural. I don't think the yoga journey is all sunshine and flowers. It can be hard. Really hard. There are times where my yoga mat mocks me while I lay in bed browsing facebook. That doesn't make you any less of a yogi and I really believe you'll find your groove again. Maybe with some warm weather + sunshine + yoga in the park you'll fall in love with it all over again.

    Any interest in going to the Shala on Thursday? I still have my pass from the Yoga for Kenya booklet. Or Moksha? Going to the Hfx one tomorrow night. Level 2 at 5:30.

  18. I guess I think that it's just not about being perfect. You are no less of a yogini in my eyes. Good luck!

  19. "You just made me realize that all that other stuff I was stressing that was irritating me- all the *other* yoga stuff beyond asana? It irritates me because I don't believe it. It doesn't resonate with me. It doesn't feel real or true.

    Instead, I'll keep the asana leave the rest."

    My sentiments exactly; that's why I practice at home, alone, when and how I feell like.


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