asana

When yoga isn't fun anymore

It's a common scenario: at some point after consistent yoga practice, a student will make the bewildered comment, "I used to feel so much better after yoga but lately I feel worse."

This is actually good news.

If one of the purposes of Yoga practice is to know ourselves more deeply, it makes sense that at some point we will encounter parts of ourselves that are not so... beloved. What we might call the dark or shadow side of our personality, which just refers to aspects of ourselves that are out of the light of conscious awareness.

This is a sign that the practice is working.

There are aspects in all of us that we'd rather avoid or hide, and we can pretty successfully do so during our regular lives. We have ample distraction, a dizzying pace and endless ways to numb or silence feelings we don't want to feel.

Enter Yoga, which brings us face-to-face with all parts of ourselves.

As we open the body...
as we get quiet and start to notice...
as we un-learn patterns of restriction and experience a feeling of freedom in the breath.

All those unowned aspects of our personality are Right There. Parts that have been rejected or shamed by ourselves or others, suddenly looking us in the eyes. We're bringing those "dark" parts out of their cozy hiding places and into the light.

How great is that?!

Because you're reading this, odds are you are a person who values the deep work of self-knowing and the radical practice of self-love. It's easy to lose sight of how much intentional and ongoing effort is required to live in that space.

This isn't a "make you feel better"
technique; it's liberation. ~Jon Kabat-Zinn 



The magic of Yoga is that it works on us behind the scenes, like an anti-virus program running in the background.

Although we may not feel "better" right away, owning all parts of our personalities, biases and projections is the only path to wholeness.

I'm curious about your thoughts and experiences. Leave a comment and let me know.

With love,
Michelle

Let's do better than right and wrong

Is there a right way to do Warrior I?

One of the things we've been exploring in class on Sunday mornings is how tempting it is to buy into the paradigm of Right and Wrong.

Even in Teacher Training, students will ask, after an hour of exploring the many dimensions of a pose, "Ok, but what's the right way to do it?"

There might be a right way for you...right now. But it makes no sense to believe that there's one right way to do...well, anything.

It can seem to be almost built into us -- this desire to get it right, to do it right. Which seems equally about not getting it wrong. As one student pointed out, we're trained from our earliest education to get The Right Answer. We're not celebrated for a creative answer, or questioning the answer. Just the one we were told.

This sets up some challenges for us as we navigate the world:

  • We might learn to value someone else's opinion or experience over our own.

  • We might learn to go to others for direction, advice or validation, be it a teacher or therapist or friend.

  • We might go against our own nudges or knowing, to the point of eventually cutting off access to our intuition.

  • We might lose touch with our curiosity, creativity and wonder.

  • We might think there's no point in doing "it" if we aren't doing it right.

  • We might forget that things -- including our needs -- change, so nothing stays right forever.

All of these can show up in Yoga practice. I know, because I used to practice this way.

Yep, I am a Good Student if there ever was one, and I wanted all the gold stars.
* Validation came from getting praise.
* I would push myself for someone else's idea of The Perfect Pose.
* I took great pride in following the rules.
* I sustained injuries from hands on "corrections" when I didn't speak up about my limits.
* Eventually I became pretty numb to my own knowing and insight.

It took years to unlearn this programming and it still shows up sometimes in my tendency to be linear, in the ways I question my own wisdom.

What helped?

Foremost: Being around people who modeled a different way, a belief system based on kindness and self-discovery. And then a whole lot of conditioning deconstruction.

What I learned is there are better ways than right/wrong to measure or assess our choices, actions and circumstances. Here are a few to consider:

  • useful / not useful

  • spacious / contracted

  • pleasant / unpleasant

  • empowering / disempowering

  • regulating / dysregulating

  • kind / unkind


Of course, nothing exists solely at the extremes -- all of these qualities live on a continuum. Something can be mostly useful or a little more pleasant than unpleasant. That's part of the limitation of right/wrong -- it doesn't leave space for the full spectrum of life's colors.

How about you? What continuums do you rely on? How are your insecurities soothed by the illusion of "rightness"? I'd love to hear.

With love,
Michelle

TLDR (too long, didn't read): The paradigm of right/wrong doesn't work -- in asana or in life. Find another axis to assess the value or usefulness of your choices, actions and circumstances. I used to be The Good Student pushing for The Perfect Pose and found my way back to kindness and wonder through others on the same path. Because there's no one right way to do...anything.

P.S. The Fall Yoga Immersion is a great place to unravel right/wrong, tap into your own deep knowing and be with kindred spirits.