Health knowledge made personal
Join this community!
› Share page:
Go
Search posts:

Shades of Grey (the yoga version, not the BDSM version)

Posted Aug 06 2014 8:21pm

I looked at the form before me tapping my index finger on my bottom lip. Hmmmmm....my choices were: beginner, intermediate, advanced. Which type of yoga practioner was I? My first reaction was to select beginner despite my ego's protestations. After all, I've been practicing for well over 10 years, surely that means I'm not merely a beginner? Then I noticed that the helpful form creators specificed a pose that separates the beginners from the intermediates from the advanced. Labels. Labels that come down to postures. Labels and yoga postures determine your...happiness, worthiness, acceptance by others?

Yes, I could jump on the old soap box regarding labels but the truth is, it's how the mind works. The mind likes to classify things. White, black. Democrat, Republican. Married, single. Fat, thin. Old, young. Haves, have nots. Beginner yogi, advanced yogi. The list goes on and on. We label something/someone because it helps us to wrap our minds around it. It allows us to define it, makes us believe we understand it, perhaps even relate to it. Of course labels only account for small parts of a whole person. And getting too tied up in labels makes our world a whole heck of a lot smaller. Our logical minds need them so we use them. But at what cost? What happens to the rest of us -- the shades of grey (no, not the Red Room of Pain version) -- when we're too focused on the black and white?

[Blogger Note: Okay, so maybe I am jumping on the soap box...join me, won't you?]

When I started practicing yoga, I did it because I loved it. I thoroughly enjoyed my time on the mat -- the movement, the breath, the calmness, the simplicity -- and I would look forward to my practice. Then something interesting happened -- I began to strive. I identified with being a yoga practitioner (bought the fancy mat, the clothes, and all of the accesories that defined me as such). I identified strongly. Along with this label came a lot of expectation, pressure. Although I still enjoyed my practice, it had morphed into something different. Something that involved a lot of expectations and shoulds. It's ironic because at the time I started my regular practice I was living a life that filled a lot of expectations and shoulds yet chafed...badly (like my thighs rubbing together ruining my Lululemon yoga pants badly. HA -- yoga joke. Couldn't resist.).

Yes, it was the ultimate the-joke's-on-you-delusional-yoga-girl -- I first unfurled my mat because I was stuck in labels, expectations and shoulds that were making me miserable seeking happiness, which I found for a brief period before sliding into more labels, expectations, and shoulds only of the yoga variety. Crazy, no?

I say slide, because it was a gradual thing. First it was a yoga DVD that taught a posture that I couldn't do. Rather than gently work towards it or question whether the pose was right for my body, I forced my way into it (after all, people who practice yoga can do that posture, right?!?! I can't say no to a pose or I'd have an identity crisis!). Not too long after that, I attended a yoga class in which the teacher praised me for my form, commenting that I must have been practicing for quite a while (oh how my ego loved this and preened under the praise). Then I was in a class where the woman on the mat behind me jumped her way into a very shaky headstand only to come toppling out of it about 10 seconds later taking out the person behind and next to her (ouch for those poor students, one who was in Savasana the other in Child's Pose, who got whacked with a leg and/or arm). As I watched that wipe out, I decided that I would master the pose without the kick up and/or wipe out -- after all that's what a "real yogi" would do. Some months later I was at a yoga workshop in which I slowly and gracefully came up into Headstand -- no wipeouts, no fellow yogi takedowns. Ah, the label of yogi was finally mine (insert evil BWHAHAHAHAHA laugh here).

Oh yes, I was a "yogi." I fit into all of the expectations and the shoulds, blah, blah, blah. What I was missing was the heart. Getting on my mat was no longer about love but about accomplishment, earning the label, matching the expectations. It was about mastering this pose or that pose. It was about mastering my form. It was about increasing my flexibility. It was about looking good. Somehow I'd lost the love and gained the label. Not a fair trade, if you ask me.

My life was no different. I'd attained a number of delightful labels by then. I was living a life that had the checkboxes all marked off. I was at "the right place" in my life, living as I "should" have been living. Of course by then my expectations crashed into my labels, leaving a disjointed mess. Everything looked good -- I had all of the societal labels that we're spoon fed by the media every day with grand expectations of happiness and fulfillment. Yet I was neither happy nor fulfilled. And my yoga practice, which had started out as a practice of love, had slowly declined into the place of labels, black and white, ego. 

It took a while, but I slowly stripped myself of many of the labels. It was eye-opening for me yet shocking and unnerving for many of those around me. I was no longer so easy to define or understand. It's like suddenly unzipping your sheep suit while the other sheep look on in horror thinking that you have some mighty sharp teeth that look veeeery dangerous. People wondered how I could have given up so many of the things that I -- and everyone else -- had identified with me so strongly. I started living in shades of grey land. My life now barely even resembles the life I used to have. My yoga practice barely resembles the practice I used to have. I've gotten back to love. Now I'm without all of those things that were supposed to make me happy at an age where I'm supposed to have those things and more and...I'm happy in a way that I couldn't have even imagined back then.

Many people seem unable to understand this. They ask about this and that, wondering how I can be happy without those things, those milestones. "But, you're 42 and you're this not that?" they ask perplexed. I smile, remembering when I was this AND that living in my small, unhappy world. Black and white weren't my colors, I guess. Yes, they enabled me to fit in, made me easy to understand, but they didn't make me happy. My little identity crisis has softened the edges and expanded my world. Harder to define? Perhaps. Yoga practice that doesn't resemble that of an advanced yogi? Yes. Happy on and off the mat? YES! Hell yes!

Before you check off the box, take on the label, rush to identify yourself strongly with something or someone, take a moment feel if it's what's in your heart. Sure, shades of grey may confuse the heck out of your head, but your heart will find its way.

Namaste!

 





Post a comment
Write a comment:

Related Searches