How yoga makes everything better…and harder

Everyone I’ve ever crossed paths with knows how much I LOVE yoga. Give me the chance and I’ll talk your ear off about how it’s changed my life and how I couldn’t imagine my life without it, yada yada yada. But lately, there’s been a gnawing, frustrating edge to it that I can’t ignore.

It’s a feeling that started when I came back from my yoga retreat in September, but it wasn’t until one of my yoga teachers said something in class that it really coalesced into a concept I could get my head around, and mull over properly.

What she said was basically this: many, many times on our yoga journey, we’re going to wish that we’d taken the blue pill, and return to our comfy, pre-yoga lives. Because while yoga does, in my opinion, make life infinitely better, the path also becomes much harder the further along it you go.

Yoga forces you to come face-to-face with yourself. Your REAL Self. Your strengths, your weaknesses, all those deep, dark secrets you can’t even bear to acknowledge to yourself, let alone anyone else, emotions and memories that you thought were long buried. Yoga will dig it all up, spread it all over your Lululemon mat and slap you in the face with it until you’re red and puffy. Until you see and acknowledge and know. Until you wake up.

That’s the easy bit.

Because once you know something, you can’t un-know it. You can’t run and hide and claim ignorance. You don’t have any excuses anymore.

And when you know something, really know it deep in your heart and soul, but don’t always act in a way that aligns with that knowledge, when the outer world doesn’t reflect the inner, it sits heavy in your chest, in your gut. It makes you feel slow, tired, frustrated, cranky, restless.

When I came back from the retreat, I was bursting with ideas about how I might replicate and maintain some of the practices and feelings that were cultivated over the weekend. One of the first things I really wanted to work on was creating a quieter start to my day. I really valued the silence and stillness of our early morning yoga practice, the way it allowed to me slowly ease into the day, to connect with my self before I started connecting with the outer world. So I thought about meditating, doing a few rounds of Surya Namaskar, reading something inspiring, rather than immediately flicking on the telly.

I don’t think it even lasted a day. And even now, each evening I think about how easy it would be to switch off the TV and tune in to my self, and yet every morning I switch on and tune out. I know the benefits, I know how it feels to live aligned with your inner world (albeit only for a weekend), and yet I’m still struggling to change. That’s just one example of many.

It’s so much easier to just do things as you always have, and as others do them, even if they don’t make you happy. The collective energy of a culture that values information-overload, busy-ness and constant stimulation by any means necessary, simply carries us along. Our loved ones look at us, askance, if we start acting in ways that don’t fit with agreed rules and conventions. Swimming against that tide is hard work. No wonder we have so many cases of “not waving, drowning”.

But yoga will only let you get away with that for so long. Indeed, it gives us all the tools we need to make sure that we can safely swim to shore. Yes, yoga shows me all of the things I need to work on, but it also shows me that I’m a lot stronger than I often think I am. More capable than I think I am. Yoga gives me the confidence to keep on swimming, even when the tide pulls me out even further, knowing that with dharana (one pointed focus) I will reach my goals, I will make those necessary changes, and I will come to rest, energised and happy, upon the shore.

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