I hate yoga. It has changed my life. It allows me to see myself for who I really am. It brings a massive magnifying glass up to all the things I need to work on in my life, emotionally and physically. It challenges me every single time I get on my mat. It makes me see all my limiting beliefs, shortcomings, flaws and strengths.
Oh – no – wait. Those are the reasons I love yoga…don’t I?
And this is me. The yoga teacher and business-owner in a love-hate relationship with the very thing she teaches and relies on for her income. It’s what the kids might call “awks”.
It all started a few years ago. From most of the stuff out there in The World (i.e. the internet – which is pretty much the same thing, isn’t it?) I thought for a while that I was the only one of my kind. The more I trawled through websites, blogs and heck even printed magazines (what can I say – I’m an old fashioned girl) the more I started to think I was unique. And not in a good way.
The more I saw all those beautifully lit, artily styled, anatomically perfect folks bending themselves into poses that seem straight out of Cirque du Soleil, then sharing their ‘Top Recipe for a Life Changing Kale and Kelp Smoothie’ the more it seemed that I was in the wrong job.
There are various qualities one is lead to believe that are essential for a yoga person to have. I was starting to think I didn’t have any of them.
First of all, the bendiness. I am not a naturally bendy person. Genes, emotional baggage and years of falling off/under/over horses (landing head-first on more than a couple of occasions) put pay to that. My body fights and flails like a Slipknot fan at a Justin Bieber concert when I ask it to effortlessly float through a sun salutation, or rest peacefully in kurmasana.
Then there’s my mind. It loves to regale me with tales of all those times I tried something new and failed, persuading me that it’s actually best to stay inside my onesie and inside my comfort zone. When I am on the mat it runs backwards and forwards, like an overexcited dog in a butchers, telling me that the pose I hate the most is coming up and it’s probably going to be horrible and that the one I’ve just done was rubbish.
Sensitive yoga folk should look away now because if all of that wasn’t enough to make your ujjayi breath go a bit whimpery, hold on to your mats….
I drank wine. And beer. And gin. And I liked drinking all of those things (not together – I didn’t need an intervention yet). Sometimes I drank them until I got a bit…umm…jolly.
I snarled at people who push in front of me on the train. I hated the Daily Mail (but if you think that’s not ok, we should call it a day now). I laughed at ‘You’ve Been Framed’. AND I DIDN’T LIKE SPIRULINA. FACE IT, PEOPLE – IT TASTES LIKE POND.
How on earth could I be all of those things and at the same time be a yogi? More to the point, how could I be all of those things and at the same time teach yoga?
I knew that I wanted to keep yoga in my life. It made me feel good (most of the time; but even after the feeling bad bits I always felt better). I did get a sense that it was helping me shift through some of the stuff that was holding me back, but at the same time I knew that even with all the yoga in the world I was never going to be one of those people.
And then it hit me: I actually didn’t want to be one of those people. I wanted a long term relationship with yoga, but I wanted to keep being me. I wanted to live true to my own definitions of what a good, positive, whole, loving, challenging, generous, genuine, enjoyable, yogic life looked like FOR ME.
The more I thought about it, the more I realised there must be more people like me, and now I know there are. I meet them in my classes, I get emails and messages from them, they talk to me in whispered tones at the end of workshops, and they feel bad about it – and that’s not ok.
We do our best to do yoga – and not just the stuff on the mat. We think it’s a great way to live our lives, and recognise that it is a truly amazing system of growing into the best version of you that you can possibly be, a wonderful world of going out into the world and making it a better place for everyone – but at the same we have to acknowledge that we are living our real lives at the same time.
Don’t get me wrong; I have the utmost respect for yoga and everything this amazing tradition has brought into the lives of us mere mortals. I will forever be grateful for all it has enabled me to achieve and I know that, as with any potent force beyond our understanding, its true power is something that most of us can only pretend to understand. And, if we ever want to get close to feeling its awesome potential then it asks us to make some serious sacrifices; as it should.
But here’s the thing. I would rather a busy Dad’s ‘yoga’ is taking 10 minutes after the kids go to bed to do some sun salutations, stretch his body, take some time for himself, before having a glass of wine, than do nothing at all.
If a crazily stressed CEO can only do her ‘yoga’ during the 60 minute commute into work and back, I’d rather she sat on the bus and used that opportunity to connect her breath to her body and mind, than did nothing but think herself into ever-decreasing circles.
When the only time you can do some mindfulness is when the traffic lights are at red and you have a moment of stillness to scan your body, notice your breath, and think of three things you’re grateful for, you take it. That is your yoga.
So this is a rallying cry to all of you ‘bad’ yogis out there; we shouldn’t allow anything (especially the stuff that’s meant to make us feel great) make us feel bad when all we’re all doing is the best job we possibly can with what we’ve got.
So if you find sometimes opening a wine bottle more fun than opening your hips; if your kit is from Sainsbury’s not Sweaty Betty; if you snigger whenever someone says ‘tittibasana’; if your love/hate relationship with yoga is more ‘on-again-off-again’ than Jordan and, well, anyone – you’ll always have a place with me; the happiest worst ever yoga teacher.