student: “the problem is, I smoke and I drink, will it get in the way of me practising yoga?”
teacher: “the problem with yoga is, practising it will get in the way of your smoking and drinking.”
The more you practise yoga, the more you will want to. it’s just something that happens. With regular practice you undoubtedly feel the effects on your body, you notice the effects in your posture, how you stand, how you sit. you start to notice your breathing in every day life, you become more aware of how you feel energetically and emotionally in any given moment. Soon it begins to permeate your outlook in life…you get used to feeling good, vibrant and joyful. so the next time you get drunk or eat something heavy, you’re more sensitised to it and chances are you simply won’t want to feel toxic. So soon enough bad habits are replaced by good ones, sluggishness, irritability, self doubt etc are exchanged for vitality, good moods and confidence. As you build the motor-neural connectivity within your mind-body complex, you will be realising the inter-connectedness of everyone and everything. This sense of one-ness makes you feel whole, blissful and loving to others.
You’ll like the shiny, new positive ‘pure’ you and you’ll keep coming back to your practice for more…
…but who ever told you that yoga is supposed to make you feel good is only telling you a half truth…with more dedicated practice comes some more unexpected, perhaps sinister affects….
The heightened sense of awareness can bring about heightened sensitivity which can lead you to feel overwhelmed by your surroundings or make you want to distance yourself from people or places from your former ‘less-yogic’ lifestyle. In building a relationship to your Self, you inevitably challenge old or existing relationships with others. You may go through bouts of uncertainty, confusion, isolation and ostracism.
I use the analogy of cleaning a house, you clean all your rooms and you feel good about it, there is one room that is really dark and messy and you’d don’t like to go in there so you keep the door locked and forget about cleaning that one. yoga practice however, does’t let you forget, it insists that you unlock that door, pull out all the mess, unpack age it, examine it and deal with it, item by item.
The self-enquiry within Yoga makes you question your core values and daily assumptions. Sometimes you don’t like the answers, sometimes you don’t want to know the answers. This confrontation can be sometimes intimidating, sometimes frighting. Going deeper into yoga practice starts to work deeper into your psyche, drawing up past hurts, blocked or unprocessed emotions held within your subconscious. ALL tensions are brought to the surface and demand your acknowledgement and your attention. You may want to run away and hide from this ugly mess but there is nowhere to hide from yourself.
So Yoga can bring up great pain, great rawness, great confusion, great turbulence. How could your dear friend yoga do this to you?! How is it that yoga, that previously made you feel light and found is now making you feel heavy and lost? Do you give up here, or do you dig deeper?
I say keep cleaning..Like Winston Churchill said.. “When going through hell, just keep going”. Rest assured that plugging away with the yoga techniques that you will make it through the other side. The storm passes and again the sun shines bright. But this time brighter than ever before, because with it comes a sense of triumph and wonder. You will feel a huge sense of gratitude for what you have learned and realise that you know so little. You realise that this is not the end, but just the beginning…