Almost two years ago, I recall my teacher, Christina Sell speaking about the practice of yoga before a long weekend of asana. I remember her saying that the practice of yoga didn’t make her a better person. What a RADICAL thing to say! Most of us have the impression that we will become better people through becoming yogins. Through practice. Through getting on our mats. Through applying the teachings of yoga and living the yoga off of our mats in our daily lives.
Today I practiced asana with her, via her website (http://www.livethelightofyoga.com/) after not practicing much asana for a very long time. After practicing, I noticed something happen. I heard the voice of anger arise inside of me. It was immediate and it was true.
Several days earlier, I had been meditating and I heard a different voice arise. I listened hard. It wasn’t a pretty voice. I kept listening. And for many days, I worked with it to hear what it needed to express. I kept doing the practice. Listening. Not pushing it away. Honoring a voice that was, indeed mine. It was hard. It was necessary. I am sticking with it. As yogins, we do our practices from beginning to end. We make the decision not to bail when it is uncomfortable. We make the decision to learn from the uncomfortable.
I was reminded of what Elizabeth Gilbert came to in Eat, Pray, Love. That essentially if “we are brave enough to set about on a truth seeking journey- and if we accept everyone we meet along the way as a teacher,- then the truth will not be withheld from us.” Her words in her book are so poetic, they are actually healing. My reason for raising it is that I believe this to be so. And in so believing, I believe this truth is the closest thing we get in life to knowing god. I believe that when we get in touch with our most essential nature we become a part of god and god, a part of us.
That, I believe, is what yoga and meditation offer us. A peeling away of the barriers we build up which guard us from the truth. Our practices bring us back towards our most essential nature, whether we wish to face it or not.
This morning, for instance, I decided to go back to sleep after I had awakened. I had a very lucid dream. In that dream, I was screaming at the top of my lungs at someone I have felt deeply betrayed by. My words were not harmful. They were just loud. And the anger was ancient. I was carrying anger for my elders. I was carrying anger for my beloveds. I was carrying anger for my friends. The anger was expressed in a blast. I, the yogin, was not beyond it. The dream afforded me an opportunity life cannot.
I had to breathe through what I had just seen so vividly when I awakened because it was not pretty. The yoga un-peels the layers and gets to the core. Sometimes the taste is bitter, but bitter medicine is potent, powerful and clarifying. We will never feel “pretty” on the outside unless we fully acknowledge the bitter tastes which live inside of us and honor them whenever they arise.
We are always more than the sum of our parts, but we must claim all of our parts in order to be whole.
Yoga doesn’t do this for us, but slowly, by moving our bodies, we change the alchemy of our bodies and then we actually begin to change the thoughts in our minds if we stick with it. The truths are there. But they are not all of who we are. They are just component pieces. By letting them be heard, touched, voiced, they slowly begin to settle and we can actually learn how to love and forgive them because they are part of us. Beautiful. Bitter. And bold.
Yoga doesn’t make us better people. It helps us become integrated and whole. But only if we choose it.