It is basically impossible for me separate physical and mental issues anymore. Thanks to yoga I’m sure. It can be a good thing in a lot of ways but it can really get your head in a vice. Yoga prides itself on not just being a workout for the body but also the mind. It can relieve stress and give you all sorts of “one with the universe” kind of feels. Which is really great. I’m not knocking that at all. It’s one of the reasons I started going to yoga. But it can also give you the most existential shit-storm of a mind fuck you have ever experienced. And since I’m coming from a Christian background, that’s saying something.
That has been part of my issue though. There are some serious similarities that I started seeing between the church I left and the non religious yet spiritual system I had found myself in. Stick with me here, I know this isn’t the easiest of topics.
You see, yoga in America has issues. Actually, yoga anywhere has issues. I have listened, read, watched, and participated in a myriad of discussions about a myriad of topics relating to yoga. And I did the same when I was a Christian I would debate, study, read, argue my opinion, try and listen to opposing opinions, anything to sort out the why’s and why not’s of my chosen belief system. Sometimes it was great, but mostly it was exhausting. It was disheartening. Unbelievably draining. And I have done the same with Yoga. Is it cultural appropriation? I’m not a Hindu, can I still participate in Mantra? I have my own belief system can I have a deity image in my practice still? I don’t believe in Karma is that a bad thing for a yoga teacher? I don’t want to use Mantra in my classes is that ok? I don’t think yoga is for everyone, will that lose me money? What if I want to make money as a yoga teacher, am I a selfish asshole? Is it wrong for me to be really mad that people had issues about how I look as a yoga teacher right out of the gate? Should I just teach “Fat Yoga” and accept that’s how people see me?
So many things to argue about. I am a firm believer in my humanity. In participating in it, not trying to avoid, deny, beg for forgiveness about or starve it out by denying myself all things that make me human. And if you’ve ever studied the Sutras or anything like it, embracing both the good and bad of your humanity can seem very contrary. And I hate that. I don’t just dislike it, I genuinely hate it. I spent half my life trying to atone for the fact that I was born a women and a human. Trying to pray the human out of me. Trying to deal with the fact that I was told as a child I was born with “sin” and that I had absolutely no choice in the matter. And that there was only one way to keep from being burned alive for eternity. No choices there really. While yoga doesn’t go down that road quite as harshly, there are very specific similarities in how much of our humanity we are suppose to deny. If you choose to pick one of the “less strict” version of yoga then you can, but isn’t that us westerners just watering it down for our consumerism lifestyle? No, I don’t think it is.
I do, however, think there are people that will argue the truth of any chosen religion or philosophy while the world burns. While it starves.
Does that mean we shouldn’t discuss these things on our minds? No of course not. Does it mean you have to give away all your possessions to the poor before you don’t sound like a hypocritical capitalist drone? I dunno. You go do whatever is right by you. But as for me, I’m finished arguing about whether or not my chosen version of yoga is cultural thievery or not. I’m over arguing about whether or not I look yoga enough to have my picture posted online. I’m finished with all of that. Because for so long I felt like it was impossible for me to move forward until I answered every question. It has kept me from moving forward. It has kept me from going to yoga in general.
So, after completing yoga teach training I really felt a lot more lost than I ever thought I would. All of those questions and no answers. Just more arguing, turmoil, people judging the appropriate use of my chosen belief system. Just like when I was a Christian. So much effort being spent on whether or not someone’ else’s version of Jesus was the same as mine. Yoga was suppose to fix all that, fix me. And it didn’t. I was suppose to spend all my time doing it, come out the other side a kick ass teacher with all my mental issues sweated out. I would be thinner, happier, and have a new understanding of how I fit into the grand scheme of the universe.
And then I did pretty well. I mean, I wasn’t a natural or anything but I did ok. Most people thought I was going to start teaching right away. I mean, I did too. But life is such a bitch sometimes and having plans and a timeline just doesn’t always work out. It’s actually a common theme for me. Mostly my own doing because I’m not a consistent person. I now know that means I’m a fearful person but that’s a discussion for another time. So when I was done with my training I really didn’t feel like I knew enough to just start teaching. (This is how I felt mind you, not how things really were.) I just couldn’t go out and try and teach. I mean, I would have to like…actually go out and try to teach. Which meant I would have to hear “no”. A lot. And put forth a great deal of effort. And since rejection isn’t everyone’s favorite thing in the world, I decided to wait.
And then I got pregnant.
Briefly. It was over before it started really. I didn’t feel any sense of loss around it. I wasn’t planning it and I wasn’t interested in it. I mean, We had talked about maybe pursing that in a year or so, but for now it wasn’t what I had my mind on. But then We started talking about it more. And then We decided to just go for it. Why not? And this very small part of my brain was so relieved because then I wouldn’t have to put myself out there yet. I could use this as a reason to not face rejection. To not have to work on the uphill battle of trying to change my physical self more than I already had.
It was an out.
I could go down this road and come back to yoga after I had studied more. It would be a great story. Yoga would be the perfect way to get back to it after a pregnancy right? All my psychological bullshit could be avoided for a least, lets say….another year?
So. Fucking. Wrong. Just so so so so wrong.
See the problem with yoga and all this self awakening shit is that you are aware of your own mental tricks. The things your brain used to do to get you out of bad situations and make you feel ok with yourself and justify that the way you are is perfect and needs to alternation, they don’t work anymore cause you’re “enlightened” or whatever buzzword is popular this week. Really, it’s because you’re being honest and relatively aware of your own consciousness. Enlightened sounds entirely too graceful for what is really happening.
Why was I so wrong? Because We tried to get pregnant. And failed. Tried again. Failed…..six months later, nothing. Now, don’t get me wrong, I know this is normal and blah blah blah and I’m not interested in hearing why I shouldn’t be upset about it. As someone with PCOS (look it up if you don’t know) and Hashimoto’s Disease, getting pregnant and staying that way can be a little tricky. A lot tricky.
The summer passed in somewhat of a blur for me. The only times I really remember not feeling depressed was when I was outside hiking, or in the water.
Then, we had a tragic death happen in front of us at work one night. A man died. We saw it.
Another man that had tried to help our friend was covered in blood and in shock, standing in the street. I helped him, washed the blood off of him. Tried to clean it all up. I didn’t sleep that night. A few days later, it was my day off. I was sitting on the couch. The house felt stuffy even with the windows open. I wasn’t pregnant. Again. I looked at the clock.
I blinked and looked at the clock again.
I have no memory of what happened in those hours. I hadn’t moved I don’t think. I hadn’t been thinking. If only I could get to that kind of state when I’m trying to meditate! But in all seriousness it scared the hell out of me. I called my Naturopath for a counseling session and energy work. I started to feel better.
What does all of this have to do with yoga and why I stopped and am going back? How does this compare to not wanting to face rejection or deal with yet another step in dealing with my physical self?
Because, I have never felt rejection in this life like I have while staring at the “not pregnant” symbol on a pee stick. Six times.
And there is nothing in this life that has forced my hand around my physicality like wanting to tell my husband he’s going to be a dad.
Cause see, I’ve already given up a lot to make myself more physically fit. I mean, it sucks because I’m still the me I’ve always been: super hot and plus size. But compared to a lot of people, if they did what I did, they would be a lot thinner by now. Heathier. Less issues. It was my Naturopath that told me on repeat, like a fucking broken record, you can’t compare the immeasurable intricacies of your body to anyone else’s. And it’s a really hard lesson. Like…really, really hard. Because then it’s just you and your shit and you can’t say it’s unfair. Unfair compared to what?
So once I realized my epically depressive state I got help. I told my friends, my Naturopath, my family. And it helped. A lot. Because loneliness was a choice for me this time. It was safer because if I said something out loud then it was true and then I would have to deal with it. Which brings us full circle doesn’t it? Sometimes you just have to deal with your shit.
There are things about yoga that I’m so over. And I’ve had to come to terms with that, and figure out how that fits in my practice as a student and as a future teacher. But that means I have to make decisions. And stand by them. And I want to do yoga. If that means people think I’m a racists stealing from other cultures and that I’m too fat to be a teacher and that I should always be arguing my beliefs…then so be it. You know I had to remove myself from a Facebook group that was made to discuss the Sutras four times before people stopped adding me?
Because I don’t want to discuss that bible either.
So now what? Yes, We are still trying to have a kid. And yes, I still want to be a yoga teacher. Tough to try and go find a job and then two months later say I’m pregnant. Yoga is a physical field. But that’s ok. I’m just me. And however that shakes out, with either yoga or motherhood or both, I’m ready to take it on. The rejection, the bullshit, the just having to do my own thing and knowing that people might hate it…that’s fine too. I’m just me. And the good part about that is, it means you can just be you too.
So here’s to the new year. To the absolutely terrifying choices that lead us to the immeasurable unknown. To those that make the infinite possibilities of every little decision not only bearable, but beautiful. Here’s to every mistake, every night we want to give up, every morning we try again, every person that carries us, makes us laugh, and gets us through. To every person we accidentally inspire. Here’s to family, blood or stronger. To our guides, deities, spirits or figments of our imagination. Here’s to the new year. May we all embrace our fear, run recklessly towards it, and dare to imagine the version of ourselves that is the most free.
I hope that you share your Life Practice through the practice of teaching Yoga. You will help many, many, many beings.
Sending you my heart full of gratitude for your honesty and generosity in sharing part of your herstory.
Namaste radiant Yogini!
Live with greater awareness
The mind is constantly involved in various activities and thoughts, oscillating between the past and the future; only a few moments manages to remain in the only moment that exists: the present. Being aware of this natural tendency of the mind is the first step in reversing it. And yoga and pranayamas, through conscious breathing, help bring the mind to the present moment, which brings a greater state of alertness and concentration.
Thanks for sharing your journey. This is a great time for folks to get back into doing yoga, even if it’s just from their own home.