In the Western world, many of us have created an abusive relationship – with yoga.
In our typical aggressive form, we have taken something from another culture, molded it to fit ours and distorted it with dogma. We have belittled and brainwashed it.
We have divorced yoga from its original identity so that it succumbs to our desires for self-improvement and self-gain. We have employed money and technology to control its interactions with the outside world.
Others of us have developed a different dysfunctional relationship with yoga. We have become stalkers.
We obsess over the appearance and frequency of our practice. We strive to impress it with flawless shapes and enticing apparel. We drop in before sunrise with no makeup on and wake yoga up in the middle of the night when sleep escapes our neurotic minds.
We cling to yoga as if we have lost our own identities. It is all we think, talk and post about. We must practice it #everydamnday and count how many people “like” and “love” us for it.
Your relationship to yoga
Whether we have taken the path or the path has taken us, our relationship to yoga is on the rocks. “Every” is obsessive. “Damn” is aggressive. And, according to yogic philosophy, time is an illusion.
We do not need to improve our yoga practice. Rather, we want to improve our relationship to it.
Today, my yoga post has a sub. I am writing not as your yoga teacher, but as your dating coach. The theme of class is how to find true love on your mat:
Your relationship to yourself
Much of the poor dating advice that we have received about how to pursue yoga comes from our culture’s commercialization of it and addiction to achievement. We approach our practice as if it is another thing to check off of our to-do list and to accomplish perfectly.
It is not.
Yoga is not another sphere in which to control and to judge ourselves. It sure as hell is not another place for us to fuck up.
Yoga can be the one place to go to feel safe and at home, either in your favorite studio or even in yourself.
One translation of “yoga” is “union.” This union integrates your self and your Self – your personality and your spirit. So, practicing yoga is merely an opportunity to practice the relationship between these two aspects of yourself.
There is nothing to control or to achieve when it comes to just being you, especially when all of you is welcome in and essential to this union. If you are cultivating an aggressive or obsessive relationship with yoga, you ultimately are cultivating an aggressive or obsessive relationship with yourself.
When it comes to courting yourself, forget your A-game. Instead, bring your relaxation game with these five romance tips:
- Release your attachments.
Give all of yourself to the practice of yoga, to the practice of being yourself. But become less attached to the results.
Whatever we attach to – even yoga – becomes our ego. So, if we base our relationship to yoga on the domination and achievement of physical, mental or spiritual abilities, we have sabotaged our relationship before our mats hit the floor.
- Embrace your fullness.
Nonattachment to the results of our yoga practice liberates us to experience our full range. This is how a healthy relationship asks and encourages us to be.
Imagine how your relationship to yoga would shift if it were merely a practice of appreciating your fullness. How would this look and feel? Take a moment to experience this in your body and mind.
- Drop your expectations.
Many students look to yoga to release them from their pain. This demanding and dependent approach does not work in relationships with people, and it does not work in relationships with yoga.
Like a partner, yoga can offer support and relief. But when we base our relationship to it on the expectation that it will make us feel better, we can spiral into anger, blame and disillusion when it offers us something else.
Just as there is no such thing as a perfect relationship, there is no such thing as a perfect pose or perfect teacher. Searching for either can lead you down a long path of confusion, judgment and disappointment. If we instead let every pose and teacher offer us whatever they are meant to, then we can receive what we need from them.
- Maintain your independence.
My teacher says, “If you have to do yoga every day, it isn’t working.”
This always makes me smile, as I once believed that I had to do yoga every day to be a “good” yogi and to be happy. I was constantly judging myself for my efforts or lack thereof. That pressure and obsession with getting it right kept me away from yoga’s deeper effects: a potency of experience that lasts longer than class ever does and nonattachment to it.
It even is OK if we do not practice yoga at all. Some of us want dearly to be in love with yoga, yet yoga may be just not that into us.
For others of us, yoga is that persistent suitor who refuses rejection. I fought yoga’s unconditional love of me for years before I could accept its proposals.
As with any relationship, our feelings can change. There may be times when we commit to yoga with a full heart. There may be times when we show up half-heartedly. There may be times when we take a break. There even may be a time when we have exchanged what we were meant to and no longer need each other at all.
Releasing our need to control and to achieve enables us to trust wherever this relationship takes us. If we can lessen our demands of and dependency on yoga, our relationships to it can blossom. Our relationships to ourselves can blossom.
Your next yoga date
Next time you go to class, practice your R-game:
- Relax. No, I mean really relax. Relax into yourself.
- Take a deep breath. Breathe into yourself.
- There is no need to do anything. Simply bring awareness to how you are in this moment:
- Have you brought expectations about the class or the teacher?
- Do you have assumptions around your abilities and experience?
- Are there goals that you must achieve before class ends?
- Is your ego present, labeling you as better or less than?
- Why are you in class?
- Drop your expectations, assumptions and goals. Your ego will follow. Connect instead with your intention for your practice.
- From here, you cannot get it right or wrong. Experience your body and mind for how they are in the moment. Experience the moment to experience your Self.
- As you begin to move, forget about your form. Instead, feel your poses, feel your breath, feel your energy, feel your fullness.
- When your mind starts to control or to obsess, relax. Return to feeling.
When you shift your focus away from the physical experience of how your practice looks, you can explore the energetic and mental experience of how your practice feels. The poses no longer will matter as much as your relationship to them will. At some point, your relationship to them no longer will matter as much as your relationship to yourself will.
Your relationship to your world
If you are ready to explore a healthier relationship with yoga, start by removing your agenda. An autonomous yoga practice can be more gratifying than you ever have imagined. All it takes is a more relaxed approach that receives the experience rather than chases the results.
Aggressive yogis, relax your demands of yoga. Give it back its power. Let it stand up to you. And, just maybe, let it conquer you.
Obsessive yogis, relax your pursuit of yoga. Give it space to do its thing. Let it show up for you. And, just maybe, let it surprise you.
As you change your relationship to yoga, watch how this changes your relationship to yourself. As you change your relationship to yourself, watch how this changes your relationship to your world.
A Maur Unity collaboration, edited by Maura Bogue