I’m not here to tell you that it doesn’t. It’s an activity, one that, fed by the media, has adopted to the US desire to go harder/faster/stronger and disregard alignment and the ideas on which yoga was founded: finding your edge, playing with the edge, and knowing when to back off. Of course it comes with risk, especially if you are not taught, right from the start, proper form and alignment and breath and thought!
It’s why I abhor Bikram, a practice where students are encouraged to push until it hurts. There is strain and exertion but there should never be pain. It’s also why I love my studio, where the teachers all talk about alignment, about pushing yourself but not too hard, about checking your ego at the door, and about the beauty of modifying.
I love yoga because it provides me a modicum of sanity in my otherwise crazy life. I am calmer, more patient, and more aware.
Case in point: my response to Hilary Rubin’s latest e-mail, asking that we e-mail her our fears.
“I fear that I am not worthy, that I will fail myself as I have so many times in the past, and that I will let down/abandon those who have helped me so much. I fear not being in control, not having plan, and not knowing what is coming next. I fear that I will not be healed despite the efforts I am taking and the work I am doing, that my absolute need for health insurance will blind me. I fear that I do not know enough to “start” a biz, or rather expand the business I already have to include additional services.
My heart feels tight even as I write this, constricted, my breath comes shortened. (5 minutes of heart openers and ujjayi breath help) I am unwilling to quit my job because of these fears. I am unwilling to take the next step because I am not sure it is what I want.
I’m working on it, cultivating mindfulness and awareness and belief in myself, my body’s innate power to heal. I am researching and educating and trying to be ok with having no plan but having a small nest egg, someone who loves me, and opportunities to train.”
I literally stopped mid-writing to pound out five minutes of gentle back bends, heart openers, and loving poses. Low cobra, child’s pose, hero, embryo, wild thing. I breathed deep, encouraged space behind my heart and gained the strength I needed to finish the e-mail.
Yoga is so much more than the poses you assume on your mat. If you allow it to, it fills every part of your life, making you a more patient and kind person. It allows you to be aware of your feelings, examine why you are feeling that way, and breathe through it. It teaches you to confront challenge with calmness and breath rather than anger and anxiety.
It sounds like a lot to some people, but eventually…you just start to practice in your everyday life.
I am more than my body. Yoga is more than poses. Together, we are unstoppable.