March 4, 2012

After the Honeymoon Phase in Hatha Yoga. ~ Carrie Gablehouse

Gustavo Peres

After reading through Bob Butera’s The Pure Heart of Yoga, I was reminded of the honeymoon phase of yoga and how much I miss those doe-eyed, mat-happy, magical-thinking days.

Most avid yoga practitioners that I have come across, particularly those who became yoga teachers, find, at some point within the first couple of years of their practice, that the feeling of being madly in love with all things yoga has been replaced by a feeling of ambivalence–sometimes (dare I say it) resentment.

What went wrong?

We begin to see the hypocrisy and humanness in the yoga world more and more clearly and are baffled by the immensity of this paradox. What do we do after we discover our much adored serene private instructor is actually high on marijuana most of the time? What do we do when we realize that our beloved, ostensibly “enlightened” Guru has slept with many of his beloved students? What do we do when our hasty and uneducated attempts to become vegan in dress and diet have mistakenly lead us to buy cheap pleather shoes made by slave laborers in Vietnam and seduced us into eating meat substitute products laden with massive quantities of soy and gluten?

What do we do when our yoga teacher with no more than a high school degree, or at best a Bachelor of Arts in creative writing, urges us to get off psychopharmaceutical medication and we have a bipolar or schizophrenic break? What do we do when we realize that it is no coincidence that we have a standing appointment with our chiropractor after our beloved weekly vinyasa flow class? What do we do when we realize that repeated shoulder stands done without extreme care are not really going to stimulate our thyroid or reverse our aging process but more than likely cause flattening of the cervical spine? What do we do when we realize that a whole foods diet and a yoga asana practice are not going to cure our cancer?

   What do we do when we realize teaching multiple yoga classes a week has left us mentally, physically, and spiritually sick and tired, and that we honestly rather watch an episode of Law and Order and eat chocolate chip cookies than get up and teach another yoga class?

And so on and on it goes.

You get the point. (And oh, how I wish I were being hyperbolic with these examples from my own and countless of my peers’ lives!)

Well, my best guess is that we breathe. Consider our options. Breathe. Consider our options. Breathe. Opt out of commitments made when you were high on yoga and opt into commitments made because you have now soberly chosen certain yogic disciplines for reasons far beyond momentary spells of pleasure and a penchant for idolization. Breathe.

Consider that maybe it is time to let go of the Type A yoga with push ups or one minute holds and give yourself a break for once in your life. You know, stop bringing whoever it was who told you that you are not good enough on to the mat with you. Or maybe it is time to stop being so afraid of failure and discomfort all the time and try to stand on your head for a change or make the added effort to hold that Warrior II for thirty seconds.

Perhaps even play with the notion that the path of modern, Western Hatha yoga and all this Sanskrit, spandex stuff is not for you. Maybe Dharma punk-ing Buddhism or Christian rocking with a tad bit of morning stretching might do you just fine. Or perhaps play with the notion that yoga, if the intention is there, can be your entire life. It can be everything you do and think.

The Burning Man festival, handstands, and a subscription to Yoga Journal are simply absurd attempts to play at yoga, if you are too exhausted and caught up in the doing of things to actually devote yourself to the goal of yoga—waking up. Truthfully, nobody in their right mind gives a damn if you have a committed Hatha yoga practice and can do Parsva Bakasana if you are not becoming a better person from it. And neither should you. Breathe.

I am thinking it is in letting go, in the renunciation of the attachments to the way things used to be, and the repeated practice of those disciplines that are perhaps not glamorous, but instead emotionally and spiritually sustainable, that we fall in love with the stillness that is our Selves all over again. I am thinking that it is in the dropping of the story of “shoulds” and “should nots” that we rediscover that all along all of this just is.

abhyasa vairagyabhyam tan nirodhah” or “stillness develops through practice and renunciation” ~ Patanjali, Sutra 1.12


Prepared by Soumyajeet Chattaraj/Edited by Brianna Bemel

Carrie Gablehouse is a yoga and meditation teacher in Berks County, PA. She holds certifications in Yin Yoga, Vinyasa Yoga, Trauma-Sensitive Yoga, YogaLife Institute Yoga, group fitness and  Reiki. Carrie is also currently training in the Anusara and Kundalini Yoga traditions and obtaining her Masters in Clinical Social Work at Bryn Mawr College. She teaches regular classes, workshops and retreats on topics ranging from pose alignment to Yoga for PTSD to the psychology of yoga. She is a grateful member of the ‘Off the Mat, into the World’ organization and leads annual ‘Off the Mat, into the World’ Yoga in Action groups. Carrie’s most passionate and devoted form of yoga is Karma Yoga, or the yoga of action (most commonly characterized as selfless service in the West). She founded the Berks Karma Yoga Club (BKYC) in July 2007, an outreach organizationthat pairs volunteer yoga teachers with local non-for-profits. BKYC also organizes and facilitates regular community outreach projects, charitable fundraisers, and free health, yoga, and wellness workshops. For more information on her, please visit here.

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