September 15, 2012

It’s Not About Revenge. ~ Alice Van Ness

 Everybody Has a Bad Day.

I have been practicing yoga since the 90s, and have been teaching since 2006.

I have something to admit:

I’m not perfect.

Over my years of teaching and practicing I’ve heard a lot of questions about how to do a pose right. I’ve even had students apologize for doing a pose wrong.

We see the pictures in Yoga Journal and wish for the day when our poses will be perfect. It’s easy to focus on what the outside looks like. It’s much easier than feeling what is going on inside.

Yoga is not about making you more perfect or making your poses look better. Rather, it will start to make you more aware of how you move in the world. When I’m doing regular practice things flow. I feel calmer and happier with myself. Yoga brings me to my center and helps me stay there. But for me, the yoga really begins when I move off the mat:

Can I keep my center while in a disagreement with a loved one?

Can I be patient in traffic on the way home?

Last month my story about getting fired from the Facebook Fitness Center was everywhere. It started with a blog, and then three days later reporters were literally knocking on my door.

But I didn’t write that blog to highlight how poorly yoga teachers are treated on Facebook. My point was for us as a society to examine what technology has done to our relationships with each other and our practice. I believe that by staying “connected” through our technology we miss the connections right in front of us.

Like those glossy pictures in Yoga Journal, we expect those in the spotlight to be perfect in speech, action and appearance. Then we tear such people apart for the littlest mistake.

And why?

Most people’s personal lives are full of looking for what is not there. We ask ourselves, “what can I do to make ___ better?”

Human nature and cultural sensibility push us towards this way of thinking. We think we need bigger backbends, five hours of yoga, more Facebook fans, more clothes and more money.

Our lives have little space to celebrate the imperfections.

In teaching yoga my message is we’re not perfect, and that’s awesome. You may have pain, feel tightness, feel tired, uncoordinated, but that’s okay. We all feel that way sometimes.

Can the yoga be a celebration of the wonderfulness of your body and what it is capable of, instead of what we think it should be capable of one day? Yoga may be one of the few places where one can experience a non-materialistic, non-romantic celebration of your true self.

We need to celebrate just being the perfectly imperfect people we are right now. We are on a yogic path to simultaneously be happy with the way we are now and always refine our actions on and off the mat.

As a teacher, student and person I will continue to make mistakes, speak out of turn, misspell words, fall out of handstand, and have bad hair days. Hopefully next time there won’t be a camera there, but if there is I’m okay with that.

I hope your yogic path is helping you accept yourself the way you are right now, because you are great the way you are, and I don’t even know you.

Alice Van Ness is a teacher and writer in the San Francisco Bay Area. Alice has been teaching yoga since 2006 and practicing since the 1990’s. She enjoys yoga, Pilates, cycling, photography and the ceramic arts. She is currently writing a book about growing up and going to high school in Palo Alto.

She has been trained in the Anusara Yoga method but has not dated John Friend. Alice makes her classes fun, while challenging students to go deeper. She is a humorous, passionate, knowledgeable, and giving instructor. She works with students of all ages and abilities, teaching both children’s and family yoga. Alice has worked with children since she was a teenager and finds them to be a great reminder to stay in the present and have fun. Keep up with Alice online, on Facebook, or read her blog.


Editor: James Carpenter

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