Let’s Be Honest, Yoga Is Not Pure Bliss

“Yoga can show us how good it feels to be alive. But yoga will also show us exactly how badly we feel.”

Yoga is filled with bliss. Or perhaps more correctly: it is filled with expectation of bliss. Karin L. Burke’s recent article for YogaDork.com, Rage, Fear, Sadness, Fatigue. The Darkness of Yoga, is a refreshingly unromantic look at the experience of coming to your mat.

Her point is this: Yoga is not about bliss, but about honesty.

We come to a class with this expectation that “doing” yoga should bring us to bliss, or at least relaxation. Sometimes the expectation is sticking a pose, the perfect purvottanasana perhaps.  I see it often in myself and my students. But what about when this bliss-chasing, ujayi-breathing leaves us questioning or disappointed?

Burke writes, “there may come a day your brain starts swearing at the lovely yoga teacher saying something vapid about love in your newly blossomed chakra.” Familiar, right?

The practice is not meant to be perfection though. On our mats we can explore the full, complex range of experiences – murky and muddled and befuddling as it can be. As Burke points out, this exploration can be a painful process, especially in a society where achievement and perfection are so highly valued. Taking time to prod the darker corners of our lives is frightening and unappealing. But as I see it, bliss can’t exist without the full spectrum; we may fall hundreds of times in order to greet our edge, struggle with it, dance with it, and eventually soar beyond it.

This week I’m challenging myself and my students to release the expectation of bliss and embrace honesty. Meet yourself where you are on your mat – with wonder and wobbles, imperfections, strengths and woes.

“Yoga is a love story.  Not the fluffy, romanticized love story, but the real one.  The kind that leaves you changed.”

 

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