My life has been a bit of a roller coaster these past several weeks. I went to another AFCC conference and taught yoga there. It was my first time teaching a “regular” asana class in over 1.5 years. It was so fitting to be back there teaching again. As very long-time readers may remember, the AFCC conference in 2010 was the first class I taught after teacher training. It is such a special place for me.
And it reminded me, yet again, what I love about yoga, and why it is so important for professionals. It also reminded me some of the problems with the modern yoga culture. For example, there were several people in the class who thought they had to look a certain way to be in the “right” asana. Although I tried to say over and over again how important it is to do each pose with integrity for your own body, so many people just looked uncomfortable in what they were doing. And often, the adjustments fell on deaf ears. That was partly because I was out of practice, but I think it sadly said far more about our culture than my out of practiceness (though there is no doubt that was part of it).
What I see so often both in and outside of yoga classes are people who are completely disconnected from their bodies. I see this in how people sit, stand, and move. I see it in how people talk about breathing. I see it even in how people talk about pain. They push and push and push, take something to intercept the pain, and then they push some more. Then finally the pain or dis-ease is so intense they cannot take anything more. We are asked to ignore the pain and push through it, or there will be no gain. And if there is any sort of pain, for a long time before doing anything serious about it, we are told to just take a pill. We are told to just numb the pain, not heal it.
But yoga can bring us out of that place of numbing before the pain, whatever it is, hits us so hard. Yoga brings us into our bodies. It brings us into our emotions. It brings us into our souls. I was at a yoga class this morning, and at least three lawyers were there. I remember when I started this blog I had no idea how many lawyers actually do practice yoga. But what amazed me even more is that it was a Mindfulness Yoga class.
What I have noticed is that most of the lawyers I know who practice yoga practice styles like Bikram, Ashtanga, and the more intense varieties of asana-focused practice. Some are moving into a more meditative practice, but the truth is that is what so many of us need. We need to slow down. We need to learn to listen to our bodies and what they are telling us.
This need to constantly push ourselves and feel that we need to look a certain way is destroying so many people. We are asked to push and not listen and then to numb away whatever ails us. This is certainly not the only thing happening in the world, but I see it so often I wonder what the antidote can possibly be. I worry that yoga has become as much of the problem as the solution. Today in class, the teacher said he recently read a study where 70% of yoga injuries come from forward folds. This number would have shocked me before, but now that I know more about the body, more about the way people push, and more about the stress the modern world puts on the low back, this number actually now seems low to me.
And yet, as I look to other ways to find solace and peace, I always come back to yoga. I love yoga. It saved me once, and deep down I know it is the answer to my own and so many other peoples’ pain. But that means that we actually have to do yoga as it was intended to be done. The modern asana practice is nothing more than gymnastics. But yoga is an ancient system that heals on every level – physical, emotional, and spiritual. And for that reason, yoga matters. It matters that we learn from its teachings. As I look around and see how depleted society is, how tired everyone I know is, how pained they are (physically or otherwise), I know that yoga may be a path out of their misery.
These thoughts have been percolating for quite some time. As my own practice has ebbed and flowed, I feel this need right now to come back to it with full energy. But the irony, of course, is that full energy means less energy. It means slowing down and tuning in. It means finding the yoga that brought me here originally. And I want to offer that to others. I am finally going to have a regular class – two Sundays per month I will be teaching a Calming and Connecting yoga class. It will not be any specific type of class, but it will focus on breathing, meditation, restorative yoga, and mindful asana practice.
There is no doubt that yoga can heal us from so much. It still matters even when sometimes it feels it has been stolen by the fitness community. That can never diminish that yoga is something far older and something far more powerful. I am curious to know – how has yoga changed you? What has it brought to your life?
© Rebecca Stahl 2014, all rights reserved.