This past year I’ve made my yoga practice a priority.
I did the work and found my way on my mat almost daily. I anticipated that this routine would make me stronger and calmer, which it did.
However, I also experienced some unforeseen consequences.
After a few months of regular practice I found myself feeling extremely bad both during and after yoga.
The more I practiced, the more I started becoming aware of different behaviors, patterns and attitudes I carried with me that were poisoning my experience. I noticed that I spent most of my time wrestling between pride and fear back and forth like a psychotic ping-pong match. My awareness would be muddied by my hurtful attitudes as my inner voice creeped into a pose to whisper to me that I wasn’t trying hard enough or that I should give up and quit before humiliating myself further.
On a good day, pride meant that I felt ecstatic when I got through a challenging sequence or finally felt progress in a pose. I was on top of the world! On a bad day, however, pride was telling me that I wasn’t pushing hard enough. It told me that the more advanced variation of the pose was the only one worth doing and that I shouldn’t accept anything less than perfect.
On a good day, fear meant that I got to pat myself on the back for being humble when abstaining from trying a new or challenging pose. I got to convince myself that I was practicing Ahimsa and listening to my body when really, I was just too scared to try something and risk failing. I simply could not imagine anything worse than failing. This irrational and crippling fear of failure was made worse by self-criticism and comparison. On a really bad day, fear meant that I didn’t practice at all. What if my practice today wasn’t as good as it was yesterday?
Pride and fear, pride and fear. In the end it’s the same message: how I am right now is not good enough.
I’ve often heard teachers say that the mat was a direct reflection of how we live our lives. As I started going deeper within myself and recognizing these two behaviors as they surfaced, I started to wonder how many other areas of my life I was sabotaging. How could I not see it before? Why did I adopt these behaviors in the first place? I suddenly felt a great deal of shame at the thought of how I had been thinking and acting.
Since that uncomfortable and painful realization, I’ve drastically changed how I practice and teach. My focus is now primarily on compassion and my intention is to find balance between pride and fear into the uncharted territory of acceptance. I practice Satya, truthfulness, by honoring my physical and emotional body’s state of being in the present moment, whether I like it or not.
I constantly have to catch myself either shying away from a challenge or overcompensating and boasting.
I’d like to think that my attitude has changed and that with time I am becoming more authentic and honest, but all I can say for sure is that I am much more loving towards myself through it all. If I do wander back into my old patterns, I recognize the behavior, take a deep breath and give myself a great big dose of compassion and humility.
If one day you also find yourself on this particular bump on the journey of yoga and self-discovery, know that you are not alone. Let us move into a space of self-love, honesty and authentic experiences, flaws and all.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Author: Kassandra Reinhardt
Editor: Renee Picard
Photo: by Modella Media (via the author)