Dark Side Yoga: I (Sometimes) Hate Yoga
Light Side Yoga is dedicated to bringing more light and joy to the world, but it doesn’t mean we get to ignore the Dark Side. This other side of life’s experiences can be a powerful teacher. We need to open up to these lessons or risk repeating the same mistake until that lesson slaps us in the face!
This may surprise you, but sometimes I hate yoga. I remember recognizing my ugly feelings as a student during one of my first teacher training master classes with lots of vinyasas and new difficult poses. I was pushing myself, and at one point my internal monologue became “You paid for this, you have to do it.” I was feeling sore and not having a lot of success with the new arm balancing poses. Sometimes as a student I feel overwhelmed by what yoga asks me to do. I don’t believe I can do it and I’m afraid to try. That fear turns into negativity quickly.
This happens to me off the mat too. I’ve felt tentative and shy to try something new or when I’m in a group of new people, and I hate that first step outside of my comfort zone. Ugly feelings come up. These ugly feelings only ever last a few moments for me in yoga class. In real life, negativity can color my actions and can easily make a chain reaction that ends badly for me and the people around me.
The unique thing about yoga class is that I’m trapped on the mat with my ugly feelings. I can’t act out or blame my feelings on anyone else. It’s up to me to try that impossible pose or to give myself a break in child’s pose. Once I make the decision about what I need, I’m usually able to let the negativity go. I’m trying to bring that attitude off the mat. When I face a difficult situation in the real world, I’m getting better at stepping back and seeing my options. A lot of negativity comes out of feeling like there are no choices in a tough spot and feeling powerless. When I can step back mentally, it gets easier to see all of my choices.
I notice that the more I challenge myself on the mat, the more I’m able to deal with real life challenges. I feel stronger and more empowered after a challenging class, no matter how the poses went for me or how many breaks I needed. I can’t quite do a handstand yet, but trying to pop up against a wall leaves me ready to conquer the world. Part of what I like about vinyasa style yoga is that if a pose isn’t going well, the class flows on to other things. Restorative classes are sometimes harder, because if a pose isn’t working, I’m forced to sit with that discomfort for a while.
Nowadays, when a class gets tough, my mantra becomes “You can do anything for one minute.” Yoga is a journey and I choose how I get to the destination, whether that’s holding a tough Warrior 3, taking a break in Child’s pose, or taking an easy flow to leave gas in my tank. That sense of empowerment stays with me off the mat too. I’ve noticed much less negativity with that attitude in my everyday life. If that doesn’t sell you on a yoga practice, I don’t know what will!