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Yoga is supposed to make us feel good, right?
Right. But also, wrong.
One of the reasons why many of us practice yoga is to help end our suffering. But without suffering, there would be no non-suffering. And what I mean by this is that, sometimes, we must experience pain in order to get to the other side. The only way out is through.
And as many of us may already know, it can be painful to open up parts of our bodies (and minds) in ways the world has never seen. And it can become especially uncomfortable when we begin to open up the parts of our bodies that carry the most emotion—the parts that carry the most trauma.
But, in order to reach a state of non-suffering (side note: do we ever really reach this state?), we need to be willing to feel the pain in order to release it.
And that’s the obvious reason why yoga can make us feel like sh*t. Because moving stagnant energy in the body that we often don’t realize we’re holding onto can feel pretty awful—often because that energy we’re holding onto is trauma we’ve shoved deep down into our heart, our hips, our lower back, or wherever we carry the most tightness because we weren’t ready to face it.
But there’s another reason why yoga can make us feel worse and it’s this: we are practicing from our ego.
Ah, yes, the ego.
But remember, the ego is not to be feared! And it is not something we must “get rid of.” The ego is fully a part of who we are that needs to be honored, loved, and recognized just like any other part of ourselves. And it needs to be balanced and properly integrated into our being.
However, it’s important to recognize when we are unbalanced and acting solely from a place of ego.
And when we practice yoga from a place of ego, we are not practicing with the intention of listening to what our body actually asks of us because we are practicing what our minds think we should practice.
And oftentimes, because we are bombarded with the fanciest, bendiest of poses (guilty!) when scrolling through social media, that’s what our minds think we need to practice.
Oh, if only I could touch my toes, then I’d be a good yogi.
If only I could do the splits, then I’d be a real yogi.
If only I could stand on my head, then I’d be a worthy yogi.
Does any of this sound familiar? Maybe?
Well, it does for me. And I can definitely confess to practicing from my ego. And you know what that resulted in? Injury. Tightness. Frustration. Pain. (Aka, more suffering.)
Isn’t it amazing how we make ourselves suffer in order to create more suffering? I do this all the time and not just when practicing yoga (ever tried popping your pimples only to end up making them worse?).
But how do we not practice from a place of ego?
This is an important question to ask because it’s not always easy to genuinely practice from the heart because, I get it, you really want to do a handstand. And you can. But first, patience.
We must become radically patient with ourselves and our slow unfolding. If we want to practice yoga and actually feel good (despite the emotional pain that may resurface), we must listen to what our bodies actually need. We must be willing to allow it to feel good by tuning into what our bodies are asking us and letting go of what our egos want the pose to look like.
And the more we listen and respond from the heart, the more open we will become. And as a result, the fancier, bendier poses we crave to learn will become easier. Or, ya know, maybe they won’t, but that’s not the point.
The point is that when we practice yoga (or do, honestly, anything in life), we need to reassess why we are practicing. And if our goal when practicing is to eventually do the splits, we need to first ask ourselves why we want to do the splits. And if our answer is because doing the splits would be f*cking cool, then hell yeah, practice the splits! But remember that you’re doing it for yourself (and not for anyone else).
And remember to be gentle, listen to your body, and know that doing the splits (or standing on your head or whatever pose you desire to hold), will not make you a better person.
It takes time to bloom, be patient with your sweet self.
PS. it’s okay to bend your damn knees (that’s what they’re for).