If you are not ready to take responsibility for your actions, don’t do yoga. If you’re not ready to delve into the past and heal, don’t do yoga. If you’re not ready to let go of other people’s beliefs and stand firm on your own, don’t do yoga. If you are living a life that is not authentic to the still small voice inside of you, don’t do yoga. If you are not ready to peel away the layers of labels you have placed upon yourself, don’t do yoga. I beg of you, don’t even start.
Because that’s what yoga does. Sure, it will stretch your hamstrings and tone your arms and if you’re lucky you may even get some abs but what they don’t tell you in the ads or on the flyer is that yoga excavates your authentic self.
Yoga excavates your authentic self. That’s an interesting statement, but what does it mean?
"Just as acid will melt away flesh, yoga will hold up a mirror to every horrible belief you have about yourself and force you to deal with where it came from and why."
Yoga will bring to the surface everything that you have saddled yourself with and everything you have been trying to hide from. How can it not?
We know that when people feel anger that they tend to clench or grit their teeth. Similarly, when there is tension or stress many hold it in their shoulders. When we open those physical spaces where we typically hold our tension, it only stands to reason that the emotion that caused it in the first place is released. This offers an amazing opportunity for healing. Or, another opportunity for hiding. It’s our choice.
As a yoga teacher, I am able to bear witness to the amazing journey that my students undertake when they start practicing. There are those who aren’t ready for the self-exploration that yoga entails and they end up finding an excuse or a reason to stop. There are those who allow the exploration, but place tight confines and borders around the areas in which they are willing to travel on the journey toward themselves. And then there are the ones who are ready.
Even though they don’t know they’re ready, they’re ready. They find their strength, not only on a physical level but from a place deep within, a place long forgotten. You see the excitement in their eyes. Their growth is uncomfortable, but they hunger for more. And they arrive. They do the work. I am not referring to the asana, the trail of postures sequenced by the instructor. They do the inside work. They shed the beliefs that no longer fit, they develop compassion for others and for themselves, and most importantly they start to look at the world with new eyes.
So if you are not ready to deal with your stuff, don’t do yoga. If you are not ready to move into that version of yourself that you know lives inside of you, don’t do yoga. And if you are? I’ll join you there.
Photo Cred: Patricia Pinto, taken by Katie Basile