I took my first yoga class when I was twenty years old. My co-workers were going to try a hot yoga class. I joined them and could barely do the poses without shaking. The next day my ankles to neck were so sore I had to take an Advil. I didn’t have any opinion towards yoga prior to trying it but after that class my perception was that it was tough.
I didn’t take my next class until I was 25 in Costa Rica. A trip I took as a first step in battling my depression. I came home and joined a small studio with only 5 -8 people per class. After persistent dedication, the results were real. Although I noticed if I didn’t frequently practice I would revert back to a depressive state quickly.
I eventually felt myself outgrowing the studio and found a hot yoga studio that was less of a commute. I had two instructors that changed my life. The one was a yin yoga teacher who literally glowed as she walked. I had been curious about yin and was excited to take the class. I knew the in yin you had to hold the pose for minutes long instead of just a couple breaths but I didn’t realize that it was the poses that targeted your tissues not your muscles. It was excruciating but it became my sanity.
I went every Thursday night and every Friday morning I took a Jivamukti class with an instructor who didn’t exactly glow as he walked, but he preached as he instructed the class. Even though he had a dark energy around him his classes were restorative and always full because he was that good. The pessimist in me loved that about him.
I remember one day he said, “People tell me to stop being so negative, but I’m negative because I care.”
And on another, “I do yoga and I’m still miserable, but without yoga I’d be even more miserable.”
I believe those things stay in my mind because there isn’t enough discussion or self-help books on how to partake in yoga as an anti-social pessimist. Being anti-social and a pessimist aren’t the most admirable traits but being anti-social and a pessimist are actually completely normal traits. And in a society where being this way is unfavorable life can become unbearable.
In the words of Carl Jung,
“Solitude is for me a fount of healing which makes my life worth living. Talking is often a torment for me, and I need many days of silence to recover from the futility of words.”
I know now that yoga does not teach you that you should be mystical and light to obtain inner peace. In fact, staying true to yourself is the fastest way to obtain it.
Then he criticized current western yoga culture. We were in forward fold, or in Sanskrit Paschimottanasana. You are seated with your legs straight out in front of you and you’re folded over your thighs, hands fall wherever your body allows them too. It looks easy and is one of the most therapeutic positions when he said,
“How’s that for glamour!”
And he was right. There are three misconceptions about yoga. The first is that it is not a workout and that all it is is stretching. However, yoga is also about balance and to obtain balance in each pose requires activating your muscles which is strength work. A lot of poses require strong arms. Plus, there is lunges, half push-ups, planks and needing a strong core. It is in fact a full body workout. The second being that it is a religion. However, yoga does not tell you to believe in any specific divine entity. Which is why people from different religions, cultures and backgrounds practice it. It can literally be whatever you want it to be. The third misconception is that you need to be able to do the most intricate of the poses to achieve the ultimate benefits of yoga. Which is also not true but flowing through the images on social media where half naked women are in some twisted extravagant pose challenges that notion.
A practice that teaches us to look inward now seeks outward attention and fame.
Which is why I have much respect for my mentors in my yoga teacher training. Even though I dream of teaching yoga as an early retirement gig. I was a couple months yoga free and needed to decompress – hard. So, I joined a certification training. They didn’t just teach us about proper alignment and how to direct a class. They taught us about the history of yoga. The yamas, pranayama, the chakras, Sanskrit and the more I learn about yoga my perspective about it changes. The way I meditate changes. How I practice changes.
More so as a certified yoga teacher I question whether teaching it would ruin it for me because as much as I would love to earn a living doing something I love; I feel making money off of it would taint it. Not because I am making money off it but because it might eventually make me anxious that I have to make money off of it to survive.
I had another yoga instructor who after a glitch with the website I owed money to, said ‘I hate the business side of it.’ I think I would too.
Digital workouts are on the rise especially due to Covid-19 but there is no comparison to being in an actual class. Walking into a yoga studio, for the most part, is like walking into a sacred place. Where we are all there for more or less the same thing…peace within ourselves. In an online session you can’t modify the student if they aren’t in a proper form and you can’t feel the essence of the room shift from the beginning to end. In the beginning people come dragging in with the weight of their day or week or life on their mind. By the end it feels like a piece of you was put back into place. Although you could potentially feel this way in your own space after you turn off the TV or computer, yoga coincides with the earth and technology isn’t a natural part of the earth. More so, yoga is a journey that heals relationships between people. To be a in a room with others who experience it’s benefits only magnifies the power of it.
This makes digital training overall an impersonal experience and if I am going to teach someone yoga, I want to not just teach them the poses. I want to help them heal and a computer or tv screen is stunting the full beauty of that.
Yoga is an individual spiritual journey and electromagnetic waves have no place in the spirit. The beauty of a pose isn’t how you look in it. It’s how you feel in it. And it is a stain that another piece of the physical world is succumbing to the digital one.