I have a confession.
Despite the fact that I do yoga, I am not brilliantly happy 100 percent of the time. Another confession—I am completely okay with not being happy all of the time.
When I check my Facebook and read blogs by other yoga teachers and people working in the health and well-being space, I am often shocked by the façade of perfection that so many people are trying to portray. To me it doesn’t seem healthy or human. And most of all, it doesn’t seem yogic.
I think it is important for us to remember that although we do this practice, life can still be hard. Life is great, amazing, wonderful and so many other things—including hard.
After returning from another trip to India four months ago, life has been all of those things, especially hard. I will openly admit that I have had a really challenging time settling back in to the swing of things here. And more difficult than settling back in has been the challenge of how I should act when I am going through a hard time. Should I just pretend that it isn’t happening and walk around with a big fake smile on my face and say “good” when people ask how I am going? Or, should I be grumpy all the time instead?
Yoga can change your life, but it doesn’t mean that everything in life becomes easy once you start it.
Yoga teaches us to take the good with the good and the bad with the bad and to act with grace and strength through any circumstance. Yoga teaches us to live in the moment and be present in whatever is happening, even when what is happening isn’t good. Yoga teaches us to live a balanced life—and that means balancing the good with the bad.
When we are in a pose that is difficult or confronting and we have to hold it, and we can breathe and just be there, even if holding it is even more difficult and confronting, it is in those moments that we are really practicing yoga. If we apply that principle in life, then when times are tough and we need to cry or laugh, then do it, embrace it, and don’t try to deny that you are feeling what you are feeling. By being present in our own sadness we are more likely to move to happiness—just like they say (I am not sure who “they” are but I have certainly heard this many times before), “you have to see the darkness in order to see the light.”
So I am not ashamed to say that in the last four months there have been a number of days that I have spent in tears, literally lying in bed and just letting them flow down my cheeks. Once I started to let it happen it didn’t seem so bad. I didn’t try to stop it; I didn’t try and tell myself to “pull it together.” The truth is that I needed to cry those tears; they were coming up for a reason.
After a few of these days, strangely enough, I started to realize that in those really dark moments I was really living and feeling my truth more closely than I ever had before. I mean I was really feeling, not only that, I was giving myself the freedom to feel sad. By allowing myself to really feel, I started to appreciate the tears as much as the laughs. They are both amazing practices and should be equally embraced and equally accepted.
It is true that being happy is amazing, but being sad can be amazing as well if you change your approach to it. So next time you are sad, why not let yourself be sad and see what it brings up for you?
I think if anyone else has a problem with it or finds your honesty uncomfortable, then simply let it be their problem. Maybe it is something they need to address themselves. And surely you have enough to deal with; I mean, you are busy embracing your inner sadness!
I am not saying we should take our problems out on other people, or walk around being grump, but rather I believe we should be free to express whatever our current truth is, and especially express that to ourselves.
What could be more beautiful?
So accept me as I am, and I accept you as you are.
Nadia Rihani is a yoga teacher and Founder of Yoga Village in Sydney, Australia. Long frustrated by the huge classes and the ‘McDonaldisation’ of the yoga world, Nadia opened a small studio with the intention of providing an authentic place for people to practice, where the yoga is what matters more than having fancy yoga outfits and good hair dryers in the change rooms. Rather than preaching to students throughout classes, Nadia provides silent space for yoga students to be with themselves and really experience what this practice unlocks inside.
Nadia strongly believes that we are capable of doing a lot more than what we first think and that our main limitations are mental, not physical. Through her own practice Nadia experienced the truth in that regular yoga practice will bring freedom to both mind and body by unlocking our hidden emotions and abilities. She encourages students to practice regularly to remove the limitations that one’s mind places on the body; allowing the student to discover all that the body and spirit can actually achieve.
Nadia is super excited to have this post on Elephant Journal!
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Ed: Brianna Bemel