The Mistaken Expectation of Joy in Yoga. ~ Tim Feldmann

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Our yoga practice can give rise to difficult emotions, causing unnecessary confusion in our lives. Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras offer a surprising context to help us understand this phenomena.

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It seems there is a growing frustration in our contemporary yoga community as the popularity of this ancient Indian practice reaches new frontiers in our part of the world. Recently I have had several students approach me with a particular question about the presence of strong negative emotions in their practice and their lives.

Sometimes the practice of yoga triggers deeply seeded behavioral patterns and brings them to the surface.

For example, you sometimes find that when you practice yoga you may actually feel increasingly more aggravated than before. When you leave yoga class you may even find yourself barking at the people closest to you, such as your children, co-workers and loved ones.

When you practice you may even find that the irritation increases and you might be wondering what is wrong with you and your practice if it takes you to this “un-yogic” place.

But have faith, this is exactly what the practice is meant to do.

 During my time teaching yoga I have often witnessed new students coming into the practice with the intention and expectation of finding relief from their inner turmoil. Somewhere along the line they have gotten the idea that yoga can make our inner turmoil vanish, perhaps even that the purpose of yoga is to make the turmoil immediately dissipate. If you believe that yoga is meant to take you quickly down the road to inner peace, the experience of anger and other difficult emotions are naturally of great concern.

I find myself in the situation quite often where I have to explain to a student that there is a misunderstanding about the true intention of the yoga practice and the response varies from disbelief to disappointment. Some students have responded with statements such as:

“How can you say that yoga is not designed to make my suffering disappear?”

Yet it is not so!

 Yoga is here to bring us closer to reality, closer to what is really going on inside and outside of ourselves.

Yoga aims at bringing light towards what really is and to find the courage to see clearly and the peace to accept whatever arises without the necessity to remove or change it. If grief is there, if anger is there or if pride is there, our yoga practice is sure to slowly strip away the layers of subconscious veils in a timely fashion, appropriate to what we can handle.

Methodically, like a surgeon’s scalpel we uncover years of psychological armor, escapism and denial and by doing so we slowly reclaim a life beyond it all.

 Even though we rarely like to admit it, we are all the kind of person who runs away from our fears, denies our anger and blocks out our selfishness only to justify the whole story to your own advantage. Me too.

We are like this not because we are mean, bad or unworthy, but because this behavioral pattern is one of our most common tools towards dealing with the impact of life.

And it is not making us a bad human being – it is simply making us a human being.

In the ancient Asian spiritual traditions this was a clearly stated fact, but for most of us contemporary Westerners this concept is a bit out of our comfort zone. 

The Six Enemies towards spiritual evolution, known in Sanskrit as ‘Ari Chat Varga‘, are identified in the classic yogic school of thought. Knowledge of them is a fundamental and an inseparable part of the yoga journey.

They will be part of our nature no matter how many yoga classes we attend in this life. Kama (Desire), Krodha (Anger), Lobha (Greed), Moha (Pride) & Matsarya (Jealousy) are innate conditions within the human being which will always be present, always take us for an occasional ride and always stick their head up from time to time.

The old Rishis, yogis and sages, realized all too well from their exclusive retreats from society that we consist of more than lotus pettles and warm wishes for our fellow man. We experience irritation, restlessness, sadness and anger on a regular basis. Sometimes the Six Enemies surface in straight forward ways such as:

“Why is my teacher giving him/her a new fun asana when I am clearly better and have practiced much longer and could rock that out!?”

But they also appear in more subtle, subliminal ways like simply being grumpy and irritable, restless and eerie towards ourselves, life and everybody around us. If you are living life in its fullness the ‘Six Enemies’ will be triggered often. They tie into each other and always follow each other creating complex weaves of uncomfortable emotional constructions which we would rather be without. Yet they are universal and we can co-exist with them as long as we maintain a certain amount of ease and discipline in our lives which is where and why the yogic practices has found its authority in historic India as well as with the popularity in current Western society.

 At the same time the classic school of yogic thought offers a way out of the misery of this troubled, emotional mess.

Shri Patanjali, the author of the Yoga Sutras states that the strength of The Six Enemies is inversely proportional to the practice of yoga and meditation, to our Darshana. The method towards dissipating these troublesome emotions which from time to time poisons our minds, is, yes our yoga practice itself!

Confused? Did you get lost in a loop?

Well, here is how it works: 

When Patanjali talks about practicing yoga he means practicing the full Eight-limbs of yoga: Yama, Niyama, Asana, Pranayama, Pratyahara, Dharana, Dhyana, Samadhi. Asana (yoga posture) practice has somewhat become widely accepted in the West as the method to obtain the yogic, sattvic qualities which promote a peaceful and happy life. Yet, where regular asana practice is certainly a key tool, there is more to it than just that.

The two first limbs, the Yamas and Niyamas – Ahimsa (non-violence), Satya (truthfullness), Asteya (non-stealing), Brahmacharya (refraining from sexual indulgence) & Aparigraha (detachment), as well as Saucha (cleanliness), Santosha (contentment), Tapas (austerity), Svadhyaya (study towards self knowledge) & Isvarapranidhana (surrender to God/higher self)  – accurately creates a powerful navigational map which we can turn to in the face of our emerging Ari chat Vargas. 

The Yamas and Niyamas can help us with this often overwhelming task.

By picking up this map we have the opportunity to lay some distance to our inner ‘bad breath’ and focus on our new guiding light however far in the distance. The next step is finding a vessel to help us move through the darkness towards the light tower.

 And, this is where yoga’s asana practice comes into the picture because the practice is the vessel. Yoga’s asana practice gives us the opportunity to shed some of the layers which ‘protect’ us from feeling, seeing and perceiving what is really happening on the decks below, by cultivating awareness and sensitivity in body and mind, by submitting to a method grander than ourselves and by sticking to it.

It is often also at precisely this moment we begin to feel that the practice is not working as it sparks a sea of negative emotions to which we were, perhaps, previously not experiencing.

It is here that we begin to doubt the good within ourselves and the good of the practice. It is here that self-deprecation peaks its head up and we want to drop out and return to our previous way of living. But that would obviously be throwing the baby out with the bath water. Instead Patanjali calls upon our courage and endurance, sometimes called ‘the path of the spiritual warrior’, to navigate through this icky, vulnerable and scary places along the path.

If we are committed to a fuller and richer life, a more informed and wiser living, this is the only real path there is. 

So, take a deep a breath and accept that you are carrying these negative emotions yourself. If you claim not to have them you probably have the most work to do! When heavy feelings arise nothing is wrong with you nor your practice. In fact your yoga practice is going the way it should be going. Simply recognize the profoundness of the moment and that now is your time to begin looking a little further, study with a little more dedication and explore the Yogic Darshana a little deeper.

By doing so you can turn your troublesome experience into a true act of self exploration and reap the wisdom from such a personal exploration – and that is what the yoga practice is about, the knowledge and wisdom gained from the direct and personal experience of living.


Editor: Tanya Lee Markul

Tim Feldmann is a yoga practitioner who teaches extensively in the Americas, Europe and Asia. Authorized to teach by Shri K. Pattabhi Jois and R. Sharath Jois he is dedicated to Ashtanga’s traditional method and is currently practicing the Advanced A series. He is the co-founder of Miami life Center which he runs with his wife, Kino MacGregor. More info here and here.

Like Elephant Yoga on Facebook.

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anonymous Jan 8, 2013 2:24pm

[…] […]

anonymous Jan 3, 2013 2:41pm

[…] But even for the most earnest, there will be times we experience pain or discomfort, especially around times of growth. So remember, not all pain is injury. This practice is designed to awaken deep sensations physically, emotionally, and mentally—bringing us closer to what’s real, even if it is a bit uncomfortable. […]

anonymous Dec 29, 2012 7:08pm

[…] […]

anonymous Aug 1, 2012 12:14pm

[…] simple exercises. This year has been the same with five postures and a two hour practice. It sincerely lowers ego and brings you square in the face with many of the mind’s […]

anonymous May 24, 2012 1:31am

“Why is my teacher giving him/her a new fun asana when I am clearly better and have practiced much longer and could rock that out!?”

anonymous May 24, 2012 1:28am

“Why is my teacher giving him/her a new fun asana when I am clearly better and have practiced much longer and could rock that out!?”

I also LOVE this line……I clearly thought that when in India….and on my 8th trip my teacher made me only do simple postures and 2 hours later. Fuck, I thought and these newbies are doing more.

And like a real teacher…my teacher read my mind like a book and slammed me right in front of the beginners….it was a humbling moment….and right on cur for me in a very good lesson i needed to learn.

anonymous May 24, 2012 1:25am

Tim, This is a very comprehensive piece. And bravo for saying it all straight.

However, with all due respect I do find and feel that people get the idea that the practice should deliver peace and not stir up samsaras is because of the way many teachers and including students discuss it. It is not sexy to write or talk about how you work through your emotional pain….and that doing yoga is not the instant fix to our problems….It may actually surface the afflications that Patanjalim talked about in the Yoga Sutras.

More teachers and students should be encouraged to write their truths…and discuss the challenges…..As I teach many , many students, I still find that there is a mistaken belief that i just rolled out bed and started doing an advanced backbend. The struggle, the hours of practice and study are not seen……And I do not think it is different for anyone who has achieved great things….

Peace and metta…

anonymous Apr 18, 2012 7:23am

[…] As a Catholic who also practices yoga, I would like to propose a third alternative: there is a time for celebration of the body and there is a time for acceptance of complete sacrifice. A fulfilled and heroic life requires not just one or the other, but both. […]

anonymous Apr 2, 2012 3:46am

[…] läste något som Tim Feldmann hade skrivit på Elephant yoga. Krönikan heter The Mistaken Expectation of Joy in Yoga och den beskriver Ashtanga så bra. Hur kände jag mig mitt första yogaår? Jag var konstant […]

Bob Weisenberg Mar 27, 2012 10:20am

Hi, Tim. I love your deep and thoughtful article. And I agree with everything you wrote, except your basic premise.

I believe that everyone should expect to find joy in Yoga, and that that joy can co-exist with, support, and even fuel the difficult self exploration you talk about in your article.

To me the joy part is as simple as this: Bhagavad Gita for a Fish.

And I believe overflowing joy, for some even the early and sudden realization of joy, is the whole point of yoga, and not just a possible side benefit after a lifetime of hard discipline and self-exploration.

Thanks for being here. Hope to see much more from you.

Bob W. Associate Publisher
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Yoga Demystified, Gita in a Nutshell

anonymous Mar 25, 2012 12:00pm

[…] The Mistaken Expectation of Joy in Yoga. ~ Tim Feldmann ( […]

anonymous Mar 23, 2012 3:00pm

[…] […]

anonymous Mar 23, 2012 8:09am

[…] […]

anonymous Mar 19, 2012 10:55pm

[…] Tim Feldmann (an advanced ashtanga practitioner and authorized teacher, and a nice guy too), called The Mistaken Expectation of Joy in Yoga, got me thinking. Well, this stuff has been on my mind for a long time but I have never written […]

anonymous Mar 19, 2012 12:58pm

[…] […]

anonymous Mar 19, 2012 7:12am

I like this piece a lot. I've been feeling like shit today after some intense practice, and it soothes my anxieties and helps me to trust that the fears and concerns are all part of the process. Thanks Tim.

anonymous Mar 16, 2012 3:24pm

[…] Read more […]

anonymous Mar 16, 2012 3:06pm

The article brings more compassion to my life, thanks!

anonymous Mar 13, 2012 8:19am

[…] getting at. Her work is the product of a life of study, traveling through Asia, discipline, and observation. A life of embracing and discarding. Erin and her mate Alex live life loosely, but it is not by […]

anonymous Mar 12, 2012 9:57pm

As soon as you start blending yoga with the spiritual, you lose me. It's wonderful to breathe and stretch, but to think that doing so is part of a 'spiritual' process is pretty much the definition of insanity. Why everyone needs a 'religion' to practice is beyond me. We are born knowing the world. Your forgetfulness will not be cured by deep stretching, but rather by a dissipation of your reliance on external crutches. You are overcomplicating things, friends. Just open your eyes. The world is beautiful and horrific, always and everywhere. There is no holy. There is no unholy. Nor good, nor evil. Time to grow up and step away from the fairytales.

    anonymous Mar 15, 2012 7:09pm

    I don't read this as being about religion in the least. To me, this reads like so: Practicing asana can be a tool for self-reflection via examination of ones responses to challenges in the practice, which may parallel responses to challenges in other areas of life. This process is at times most productive when it is least pleasant. With or without unholy fairytales.

      anonymous May 24, 2012 3:53am

      I do not think that is what is being said by the above sentence…It is rather more to do with what has been coined as spiritual bypassing… the words, whatever practice we hold near and dear to us may in the end be another disguise that gives us not our freedom but attachment and ego building. This is happening a lot.

      And let´s face it…it is more true to say that stretching and breathing alone will not take you higher….that would be certainly false to promote. They are the tools that CAN do this but that is not always certain.

      I used to tell my students that a so-called bad practice probably had more to teach you then you just leaving class feeling all puffed up about yourself…and how great you are progressing.

      I think of the Swami who once said he did not come here to teach but to love and to remind people of what they already know….in the end, it really is like that…..we have forgotten our deeper selves…and asana is just the gateway to remembering again and again and again and again.

anonymous Mar 12, 2012 4:13pm

From a Buddhist and Jungian perspective, this interview with John Welwood, who coined the term 'spiritual bypass' (which is what's being described at the start of this article) might be helpful:

anonymous Mar 11, 2012 5:00pm

[…] The Mistaken Expectation of Joy in Yoga. ~ Tim Feldmann […]

anonymous Mar 11, 2012 3:43pm

[…] The Mistaken Expectation of Joy in Yoga. ~ Tim Feldmann ( […]

anonymous Mar 11, 2012 3:43pm

[…] The Mistaken Expectation of Joy in Yoga. ~ Tim Feldmann ( […]

anonymous Mar 11, 2012 2:30pm

Thank you for the "traditional" jois astanga yoga perspective. I'd like to point out the this statement:

When Patanjali talks about practicing yoga he means practicing the full Eight-limbs of yoga: Yama, Niyama, Asana, Pranayama, Pratyahara, Dharana, Dhyana, Samadhi. Asana (yoga posture)

is not exactly correct. That is simply the interpretation of you school. One of my teachers pointed out that the 8 limbs is one of three ways Patanjali suggests in the sutras. The other two being kriya yoga (tapas, svadhyaya, and ishwara pranidhana) and what is essentially the Ramana Maharshi way, consisting of meditation and vairagya (discrimination or detatchment).
Ashanta is the easiest because it has the most structural support, while the strictly mental approach the most difficult.

anonymous Mar 11, 2012 5:45am

Tim- Wonderful article! Thank you 🙂

anonymous Mar 10, 2012 8:24pm

my friend and student, Panchama Viramitra Iraputra, send me this for reference and perspective. I thought it was worth a share …

Hi Tim, I got curious from reading your article “The Mistaken Expectation of Joy in Yoga”, and wondered where you might have gotten your sources for the “six enemies”. So, I had a look at it and made a search of my own.

“Ari Chat Varga” (enemy six types? or a group [varga] of six) — Arishadvargas:

aka “shad-ripu” (six enemies)

In the Yoga Sutras:

“vaira” (enmity, YS II.35)

YS II.34 — negative thoughts/feelings (vitarkah) — [violence (himsa),] anger (krodha), delusion (moha), greed (lobha) — only three of the enemies mentioned in the Yoga Sutras, although I reckon ‘desire’ could be ‘kama’ (lust) as well as ‘raga’ (attachment). And if looking hard enough, one could probably find interpretations/translations for ‘pride’, ‘envy’/’jealosy’, ‘infatuation’ and ‘fear’ too; because those seem to be in the mix too — so “six” enemies could actually be eight (at least), or some are just left out in different versions of the list.

I’m sure you know this letter from Pattabhi Jois:

“Partial yoga methods out of line with their internal purpose can build up the “six enemies” (desire, anger, greed, illusion, infatuation and envy) around the heart. The full ashtanga system practiced with devotion leads to freedom within one’s heart.” (in A letter from Sri.K. Pattabhi Jois to Yoga Journal, Nov. 1995) -

And the enemies are with us every single day:

“The mind is always accompanied by six enemies”… “Although the mind may be merged in spiritual consciousness, one should always be very careful in dealing with it, just as one is careful in dealing with a snake.” —

kāma lust

krodha anger

mada intoxication

moha illusion

mātsarya envy

bhaya fear

… missing: lobha (greed) though

The Bhagavata Purana (or Srimad Bhagavatam) seems to be a rather early source:

Śrīmad Bhāgavatam 11.18.40-41 (“asamyata-sad-vargah”): One who has not controlled the six forms of illusion [lust, anger, greed, excitement, false pride and intoxication]…

Srimad Bhagavatam 11.26.24 “sat-vargah”: Even those who are highly learned cannot trust the six enemies of the mind; what to speak, then, of foolish persons like me.

Also ‘the mind and the senses’ (sat-vargah) : an d

In the fourth chapter of Gheranda Samhita (on Pratyahara), the Six Enemies are said to be SEX, ANGER, GREED, ILLUSION, PRIDE and JEALOUSY… “shada ripu” [kama, krodha, lobha, moha, mada, matsarya…?] — but I haven’t found the actual text, and I don’t have a copy of GS lying around at home.

And for a comparison to Christian philosophy…

Seven ‘deadly sins’:


mada* (pride) superbia pride

lobha (greed) avaritia greed

kama (desire) luxuria lust, lechery

matsarya (jealosy) invidia envy

[atyahara] gula gluttony

krodha (anger) ira wrath

alasya (sloth) acedia indifference; sloth (socordia)

Acedia would probably be one of the antarayas (styana or pramada)…

[moha (delusion) missing]

* mada (intoxication; pride); [‘pride’ aka: garva/gaurava, abhimana, etc]

Regarding gluttony, there is “atyaharah” in Hatha Yoga Pradipika I.15: Yoga is destroyed by the following six causes:—Over-eating, exertion, talkativeness, adhering to rules, i.e., cold bath in the morning, eating at night, or eating fruits only, company of men, and unsteadiness.

And there are also six yogic virtues (in HYP): The following six bring speedy success:—Courage, daring, perseverance, discriminative knowledge, faith, aloofness from company. (HYP I.16)

The (heavenly/Christian) seven virtues:








The earlier Christian seven virtues (adopted by the Church Fathers:








I don’t think it’s a pure coincidence that the six enemies are so alike the seven deadly sins.

anonymous Mar 10, 2012 12:34pm

[…] there is a complicated, and sometimes a perilous, journey, one fraught with revelations about the darkest and most challenging parts of your self. Often you start down that path and at some point it is really easy to give up, to walk off your […]

anonymous Mar 10, 2012 10:36am

Sri K. Pattabhi Jois is often quoted as saying; "Do your practice, AND, all is coming".
I modify this notion slightly to; "Do your practice, BECAUSE, all is coming."

We can guide how life unfolds, but, we cannot control how it unfolds.
Practice is one method of rolling with the unfolding of life, in all it's forms.


anonymous Mar 10, 2012 10:24am

"Phenomenon" is spelled like this, please. "Phenomena" is the plural. (Read the very beginning, after the headline.)

anonymous Mar 10, 2012 2:17am

Thank you Tim and Yogasamurai.
The way I see it is that yoga practice in all its aspects and the study of the sutras brings a lot of clarity to one's emotions but I also agree that once one recognises the 'dark underbelly' he/she probably needs help to deal with it. This could just simply be friends, or a loving partner with whom to discuss emerging feelings.
In my opinion, the sutras are a toolbox for understanding, a small support towards healing and have the advantage that they are much more accessible than your average psychotherapy/psychoanalysis textbook, especially when using a few different commentaries to go through them.
The fact that preaching the yamas and niyamas does not automatically makes us practice them 24/7 is certainly true. But the introspection helps (sometimes) to become aware of when we are deviating from what we preach. And as Tim said, this awareness brings some unpleasant feelings, but they can be used to build a positive reaction for the times ahead.

As for Tara, who finds herself becoming grumpy after the practice, I can also offer that this type of practice coudl not be the most suitable for her, as it could perhaps exacerbate a pitta imbalance in her constitution. Just a thought. I personally find that ashtanga practice is fantastic when I feel sluggish, but on the days where I am more energetic/tense it does not do me any good at all.

    anonymous Mar 10, 2012 12:07pm

    Great point in your last paragraph, Chiara. As a yoga student, teacher and with a longtime interest in Ayurveda, I've come to understand that it's a pre-existing imbalance in someone's constitution that's choosing what type of yoga to practice rather than her choosing a style that's creating the imbalance. Sounds like you've come to instinctively go for what balances you. However, that's not the case for many yoga students. It may take a broader lifestyle shift for them to come around to taking one or more styles of yoga and knowing when that should be.

anonymous Mar 9, 2012 10:46pm

Thank you for the insight and the reminder, Tim. Timely.

anonymous Mar 9, 2012 3:03pm

Great article. It's really refreshing to hear a highly regarded teacher talk about the "dark underbelly" of yoga in such clear-eyed and matter-of-fact terms. It is a struggle to move through all the accumulated layers of life's experiences to reach a place of understanding, but it's a journey well worth making. More people need to hear the message that yoga is very effective at developing the skills, fortitude and wisdom to navigate this rugged terrain. The difficulties of the journey, and the effort to complete it, accompanied by the questions, fears, and uncertainty mean the vistas at the end of the journey can be more deeply appreciated.

anonymous Mar 9, 2012 11:07am

I have a question: can someone please point me to the sutra in Patanjali's Sutras that refers to the Six Poisons?

The closest I can find are Patanjali's interpolation of the Brahma Viharas (in I.33), that is, to cultivate friendliness, compassion, etc, etc, in the face of their opposites.

Is this a conflation of Vedantic and/or later Yoga thought (as in the Pradipika) onto Patanjali? Just curious.

Also, isn't it time we shed the notion that yoga is psychotherapy?

It is not designed for, nor is it the proper tool for, helping you deal with the fact that your daddy touched your pee-pee when you were a baby.

I like Tim's line of thinking; I like the comments above. Thanks everyone.

    anonymous Mar 9, 2012 11:13am

    "It is not designed for, nor is it the proper tool for, helping you deal with the fact that your daddy touched your pee-pee when you were a baby."

    Contempt, much?

    anonymous Mar 9, 2012 1:34pm

    @one: you are perfectly right and you bring great clarity to my scribble. I am afraid I have been loose with my source! I have projected onto patanjali's sutras beyond what has proper base. thank you for pointing that out, it has slipped my vata mind. as you probably know, the concept is a common one in yoga and one guruji, amongst others, would often refer to. patanjali too refers to 3 of these adverse, dark and poisonous mechanisms in the mind in sutra 2/34 while offering a method of how to deal with them. by doing so he acknowledges 3 of these and I have made 3 be 6! I will have to sit and chew a little on whether I can allow myself to do so, probably check in with my mentors. thank you, mr. one, for your sharp mind, that was helpful.

    on a final note, I am still hopeful that my main point (that yoga often is taught and perceived as a way to obtain joy and happiness in its most immediate and simplistic fashion inclusive that the darker emotions should be wiped-out clean from our minds) will get through to the reader.

anonymous Mar 9, 2012 10:30am

Great article. But I find it very dificult to read with those animated adds on the left. It's very annoying and I loose concentration.

anonymous Mar 9, 2012 10:00am

I needed this today; thank you so much!

anonymous Mar 9, 2012 9:56am

This is terrific! Thanks! I've experienced the same in meditation; and, certainly in those circles there's a lot more dialogue about "dealing with what arises." I've come through a very tough spot in my life personally and professionally, and often came to my mat broken, in anguish and fear and rage. Yet I did not feel like I could practice in those states in front of other people; what if they saw that I wasn't full of bliss and content? Would I be judged less "spiritual?" (And yes, those at the studios around me would judge me so, even in ashtanga.) So I've stopped going to the studios around me and have a home practice. It's sad — I miss practicing with other people, but yoga culture has gotten so saturated with brainless bliss-speak I've become alienated.

anonymous Mar 9, 2012 9:33am

Oh my God, thank you for writing this!! I've been practicing for nearly 3 years and just started into the Intermediate Series (up to the Dhanurasana sequence) last fall, and have definitely started to notice that I've been feeling quite grumpy and a little more irritable after my practices lately. I thought I was going nuts or that something was wrong! Glad to hear that it's just part of the process. Thanks again 🙂

anonymous Mar 9, 2012 9:30am

[…] Tim on “The mistaken expectation of joy in yoga” Like this:LikeBe the first to like this post. This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged Tim Feldmann. Bookmark the permalink. ← Mostly work and Pincha on my mind […]

anonymous Mar 9, 2012 8:34am

Question for Tim: My understanding is that moha is infatuation or attachment and mada is pride or hubris. What do you think?

anonymous Mar 9, 2012 8:10am

Let me add a different spin —

Yoga doesn't exist to serve yoga – but to serve those in need. We take people who come to us where they are, and help them utilize yoga to get to the core of things but not necessarily to puzzle through or resolve all that's at that core.

A lot of people come to yoga with a lot of yearning, questing and craving, trauma, grief, and unmet emotional needs. Those needs can't all be "met" – or transmuted/transformed – by yoga. When people try, we can actually get into more problems.

People start using yogic "discourse" to explain or explain away their "issues" – just as a lot of hyper religious Christians or other religious devotees might. We can also get into real "transference" problems between teachers and students. Yoga's more a catalyst – than a "cure," I would say.

For me it's been one arrow in the quiver. For others, perhaps much more.

anonymous Mar 9, 2012 7:48am

It's good to see men in the yoga world step up and share real wisdom. I would add a couple of points – or maybe just issues for dialogue:

1. I think it may be misleading to suggest that yoga has all the therapeutic "answers" – that it's the "cure. For some, perhaps, but for others, it may just be a place to start an inquiry that could require additional "guidance" in psychotherapy, a 12-step program, a return to one's religion (or a letting go of it) – or something else entirely. Yogis – not saying you – have a disturbing tendency to "over-sell" their goods. Many teachers might benefit from additional training in fields like social psychology or social work if they really want to go beyond being "asana trainers" and approximate the role of "spiritual healer" (not all do). Not taking anything away from yoga, but precisely for the reasons you indicate, yoga may just be a central component of a larger "healing" or "wellness paradigm."

2. Related to this, what you say also applies as much to teachers as to students? They also bring to yoga unrealistic expectations of the "joy" rather than the "suffering" that comes from yoga – and from life. That sense of suffering may actually be ACCENTUATED by their training and practice as teachers. It may not show up right away, but it usually does eventually. Many teachers are no more evolved spiritually or emotionally and developmentally than their students – in fact, I would say, given the relatively young age of so many teachers, often less so, in fact.

Again, general point is – probably need to expand the therapeutic paradigm beyond yoga, as powerful a starting point as yoga may be, and as important a friend and companion that it might remain. And teachers can develop and expand their "pedagogy" still further, as they confront the inner and outer challenges of "growing up" in the "profession – and in many cases, simply "growing up" as people.

    anonymous Mar 9, 2012 8:29am

    Excellent – I'm a yoga educator AND work as a substance abuse counselor, often employing 12-step model with people who are open to it. I agree that these are all platforms that offer us the choice to make substantial changes in our lives.

      anonymous Mar 9, 2012 8:50am

      Thanks a lot, Evelyn. I think it's long overdue that someone write intelligently – and from experience – about that very connection: yoga and 12 steps. Maybe you could?

    anonymous Mar 9, 2012 10:37am

    Good comment, Stewart.

    Yoga has arrived in the West without the rest of its philosophical, medical and psychotherapeutics otherwise known as Hinduism. There are plenty of avenues within the full paradigm for self-development beyond doing the postures and meditating to calm the mind. In lieu of this, there absolutely needs to be other therapeutic and self-development methods explored by Western practitioners, and which may have their origins in either the East or West. — sandalwood (Huff)

      anonymous Mar 10, 2012 12:59am

      Very good to see you here, Pankaj. And we learn your given name, too. Best always. Thanks.