Lately, I have been bombarded by (primarily on Facebook) this huge myth about how fantastic yoga is. About how it’s all sunshine and rainbows and unicorns and handstands. Or arm balances. Or whatever extreme backbend you choose. Which on some levels it is. Yoga is pretty fantastic (yes, I just basically said the opposite of what I previously said, but give me a moment here). Yoga makes you stronger, more energized and helps you stand up taller. It grounds you. It nourishes you. It brings a soft smile to your face on a tough day. It helps you get over all the shit that you experience in your mind and helps you to realize it’s not the truth. Yoga has served me in those ways and so much more. It helped me when I was in my 20s, going through a deep depression and feeling lonely and lost. I was very lucky to have found yoga when I did. It saved me from going down a path in life that was most definitely not the right one for me.
So back to this myth about yoga being so fabulous. What I have come to realize in these past few months, as I have completely uprooted my former life in Chicago to this new existence in Seattle, is that yoga is not a cure-all panacea for what ails you. It most definitely helps, yes, but it’s not gonna fix everything. It’s been difficult for me (more than I am willing to admit to my friends and family) to fit in here, to find friends and to build relationships. I miss what was comfortable and familiar about my life in Chicago. So I step onto my mat every morning. I go to Mysore and do my practice. I take classes at the studios where I sub and teach. And it might look pretty sweet from the outside, but on the inside, there’s something missing. I can’t quite identify it or put a name on it, but it’s that feeling that even though I just did what I was supposed to do (on my mat), it didn’t feel fulfilling. Was it supposed to be? What was that time meant to accomplish? Because honestly, at times, I feel even more agitated with myself and more full of questions then before I even unrolled my sticky mat and did my first down dog.
I believe that we (American yoga practitioners) have given the practice of yoga a high-gloss sheen that it can’t always live up to. Like getting your leg behind your head or piking up into a handstand is gonna make your day. And while sometimes it does, after doing this work on and off the mat for 12 years, it’s not all its cracked up to be. Some days, I feel lost and unsure about why I am doing yoga. Meaning beyond the fact that it makes me feel strong, centered and grounded. Some people may say that’s enough. Yet I beg to differ. I believe that the transformation that occurs through a long-term committed practice of yoga (all the limbs, not just the asana) has a tendency to ebb and flow. At times, you reach the highest of highs, your samadhi, your state of highest being. And at other times, you hit the lowest of lows, unsure, alone, afraid and full of dukha (darkness). And then there’s the fine line in between, where most of us spend a good portion of our lives. In the gray area, so I like to call it.
And so what I have learned from spending much of my yoga-practicing existence in this gray area, is that yoga is not always bright, expansive and happy. It’s an invitation to accept the light and the dark, the good and the bad, the black and the white. And that is what keeps me coming back to my practice and my long-standing love affair with yoga.