September 18, 2011

How yoga taught me to be less nice. ~ Linnea Jensen-Stewart


Photo: Derek Kimball

Being yogic versus being yourself.

If you’ve practiced yoga for awhile, you’ve had the experience of one of those ethereal, poetic it’s-all-peace-and-love teachers. It’s astounding, inspiring, but mostly just gets you wondering are they serious? Sometimes yes, but some are just plain full of it. You’re sitting on your mat, perhaps still swearing in your head about the traffic that caused you to be ten minutes late to class because you just got in a terrible fight with your partner and your boss wants an impossible proposal on his desk the very next day.

You need yoga, without a doubt. But the fact that the teacher is om-ing right now is really sending your stress level out the window. Everyone is smiling. Sitting up straight. You feel alone, broken, vulnerable and yes, impatient. Let’s face it, you’d rather be screaming than om-ing. 

But that’s not yogic. 

And you see all these people, and they look so peaceful, and happy. So you smile anyway. And it helps. You feel better after class. You keep coming back, and yes, keep smiling. Its almost seems uncomfortable not to. Be the light of your heart, Open yourself to love, Withhold all judgment... Sound familiar?

These phrases were like bumper stickers spinning around in my mind. I became friendlier, more pleasant and always made my best effort to be nice (at the time, my version of compassion…). It’s almost like I was on a constant high. Who needs drugs when you have rainbows and unicorns coming out of your very own ass (au natural)?

I was like a girl in a new relationship – intoxicated by the promise of liberation, love and compassion. At that point I was probably regurgitating yoga-speak in my sleep. I felt I had finally found my perfect match.

But eventually the peaceful yogi in me was exhausted, burnt out, and was disappointed once again by something I had so much faith in. The blindsided romance came to an end. And like a fresh relationship turned vial, my love story faded and I was left with myself – raw and flaw-filled. This is a test that everyone faces with any love affair – no matter the circumstance.

Reality kicked in and I realized I took my own humanity out of the situation. I was bending over backwards and extending my own boundaries for the sake of being yogic. As Ana forest once said,

There is a difference between having an open heart, and having an open heart that lets all kind of shit fly in.

I was like a Venus fly trap. Blossoming beauty, wide open embrace, but catching everything and I do mean everything that flew by me. Not only was I catching it – I was taking full responsibility for it. The real yoga began when I realized that yoga alone wouldn’t save me from my problems, and I certainly couldn’t use it to hide behind. 

Doing yoga was a co-participation that meant opening to my own confrontation.

So yes, I judge, I sometimes yell, and for the first time in my life I’m realizing that I don’t like people. I may be less nice than I’ve ever been in my life. But I am much happier, much more in touch, and much more direct. And hell, I’m even sassy. Embracing my chaotic, tumultuous background gave me a voice of authenticity.

Rainbows, sunshine and unicorns….not my thing.

Facing your shit. Being who you are.….that is my thing. Censoring yourself and being mindful are two different things. Practice your humanity, embrace your flaws, and speak from exactly where you are.

Making this transition in your practice is essential for moving through discomfort and into growth. We aren’t all going to be peace and love all the time. No matter how many days a week you practice yoga. I always tell my students to never sugarcoat anything (especially a pose) for the sake of being yogic.

Being you, raw, expressive and sometimes uncomfortable is the most yogic and beneficial thing you can do. 

Only then can you really investigate what true compassion means – it’s in the corners of your own dark shadow that you find the juicy goodness that gets you into a place of real, authentic, badass, lasting transformation.

Linnea is a vinyasa yogi by heart and power yogi by discipline. She was trained to teach at the 200-hour level at Yandara Yoga Institute in Pescadaro, Mexico, where she practiced the fine art of becoming a baja beach bum (aka – letting it all go and embracing her inner goddess). She stands by the fact that although yoga is a lot about peace and love, it is also about confrontation, discomfort and being accountable for your own personal growth – body and mind. She is a wellness wizard, life-style designer, closet businesswoman, writer, foodie, fashionista, play-tress and creator. She currently teaches at Hot Yoga on the Ridge near Seattle, Wa. Her classes are a mix of alignment, playful discipline, and kicking your ass-ana! “Like” her on facebook. Follow her on twitter @LinneaYoga




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