By Ali Van Putten
Originally published here via Rebelle Society
“Yoga is the practice of tolerating the consequences of being yourself.” ~ Dinabandhu Sarley
Technically speaking, Yoga translates to union, to yoke and it’s described as a path. We follow it, with the intention (that’s a Yoga word too) to joyfully join the small self to the larger self, to improve these selfs and take the bait of believing there is a better version of ourselves out there.
And at first it seems to be working, the practice does something.
You feel a good vibe for thirty minutes after class. Your forearms get toned. You put up quotes about staying present and finally learn how to balance on your head. Not to mention on Wednesdays, after your 6:15 pm Hot Core Power Class, you don’t hate your partner quite as much.
Something is, for sure, happening. But that’s all fleeting, temporary, and unfortunately, not Yoga.
When you really start practicing Yoga, there will be moments you’re going to wish, to beg, that it was that temporary and that you could go back to before, but you can’t. When you step on that mat, with a true teacher in an authentic studio, be warned, a giant storm is headed your way.
Yoga will teach you about awareness.
Yoga is about looking at your sh*t; your garbage, those putrid and rotten pieces of you that you deny, repress and continuously reject in other people. It’s about the neurosis and habits that you catch yourself indulging in behind your own back, that you hide in Tupperware containers in your closet, and even those parts of you that, on reflex, you would spit on, if they were openly displayed by a stranger you passed on the street.
What’s worse, the practice doesn’t make any of it go away, like a good quick fix should, but instead lays it all out on the front lawn for you and all the neighbors to see, and arms with you two of the most perplexing questions for the human mind to struggle with: Who am I? and What now?
Yoga will teach you about breath.
One day, Yoga will allow you to value this human breath. First it will slowly, painfully, strip away your labels, your entire identity up until this point and the convenient tags and filters you use to matter to the world, to be a big deal and to feel, however falsely, like enough.
When through practice, through chanting and singing for truth, you are robbed of these and left trembling, alone, scared, swimming in the oblivion of doubt, then you will sit, in the prison of your own creation, with one tool, one companion, one solution, one small technique towards freedom: the very rhythmic, and consistent rise and fall of your chest. And you will be so grateful that when everything else you accumulated left you, this, this one force remained and gave you life.
Yoga will teach you about commitment.
Those who practice Yoga, and practice Yoga seriously, do it because they are suffering from a very tragic and debilitating disease — awareness, the constant agitation of existing in this world as a semi-conscious human. They can’t not practice, it’s not a choice; it’s a ritual born out of survival, to save the self from the self.
With time and repetition, most experiences and people in life lose their luster, become mundane, habitual and predictable; we walk around convinced by our minds that we know it all, wanting what we don’t have and waiting for our lives to be different. Nothing is ever enough. But the mat never gives you the same experience twice, mirroring how you are never the same participant, and you taste a very unique moment: the ability to find variety and wisdom in conscious and precise repetition. To find excitement in the old, in a practice that is ancient.
Yoga will teach you about drishti.
When you get to that point, where your practice is you, you’ll begin to have eyes that can truly see and a body that can feel. This sounds lovely, but it will mainly suck. This is where life becomes extremely uncomfortable. Most people, very smart ones, do not want to feel, and steer clear from Yoga with good reason, because when you feel, it is awful. When you see, it is ugly, it is raw, and it fiercely contradicts the decorative stories on repeat in your mind.
It is incredibly awkward to be a vulnerable, naked, sensitive being in this distracted, over stimulated, grasping, aggressive society.
When you see that you have no power over own pathetic nature, and yet have all the power to choose how you see this mess of broken pieces, then you realize that you actually have something to practice. You have a purpose. You have direction. You, my friend, have a drishti.
Yoga will teach you about perspective.
One afternoon, while on the path, you’ll fall flat on your face. And you’ll be angry. You’re on a well-groomed path and some asshole forgot to do their job and left this pothole here. What you’ll miss in your ignorance is noticing that the pothole is one you created, and is made of quicksand that sucks you in and spits you out — bruised, bandaged and on crutches. The path exists, only to show you that there is no path, no trail to follow, no end to reach and not even a trace of breadcrumbs to hold you over till you find another outlet.
Without the security of victimization, the relief of control, ripped of the ability to blame, to make it you versus me, to manipulate and compete, you will have to wake up each morning with the dreaded realization, in own personal Groundhog Day nightmare, that any perceived negative experience came to you because you made it that way. You choose to see it that way. You created it with that bastard devil on your right shoulder, your mind. And you, and only you, can turn that sh*t upside down at any given moment in time.
Yoga will teach you about alignment.
Within you, at all times exists the potential for a steady, powerful, connection to the earth that will fill you up and make you whole. When you perfect standing on your own two feet, you have a shot, a fleeting chance, at having the resemblance of a positive ongoing relation, or connection to another being.
You’ll be reminded of this, when every prior relationship falls short and that moment comes, when you’re forced to swallow the fact that no one loves in the ways they promised. Not the woman who put her two feet in stirrups to birth you into this world, the man who stood beside you and spoke of health and sickness or the perfect goldfish you scored from the county fair at age 1o that gave you your first taste of impermanence and death. And it’s no flaw within them, but a function of the human contradiction, we seek the love from the outside that we can only experience inside, when you grasp this verse grasping other people, then and only then will you understand how life-threatening it is for you to prioritize the act of standing in the center of your own being, construct your own set of pompoms, and admit that there is no help coming.
Yoga will teach you about awareness.
You will see clearly that presence is no gift. You’ll watch others complain, blame, gossip and stuff their minds, bodies and apartments with excess as if they’re standing on the deck of the sinking Titanic, as if it’s a delicacy, while you have to sit by and witness, participate and even love them because in that awareness you see that you are them. And that disgusts you.
Separation is easy, it provides an out, an equation to consistently divide our way out of any experience by fractioning out our connection to it, our willingness to admit that its happening, and that — in some big or small way — we’re a part of it.
Awareness is mostly the deflating vision of how incredibly unaware we really are and how much of our life is lived, not out there with others, but trapped within our own head, mangled in stories and imprisoned in unquestioned beliefs.
Yoga will teach you about humility.
Yoga will hold up a mirror while you thrash and kick at the reflection until you bleed on every last shred of glass and then let you pick out the shards, piece by piece, forcing you to have intimate contact with your wounds and see who you really are over and over.
And when you’re done being your own punching bag, you’ll see that it was just training camp and a dry run for the main event, a lifetime of being those bowling lane side bumpers against your own mind and the rest of the unconscious world.
And yes, Yoga will teach you about love.
Because like love, Yoga is a state of being.
Yoga begs you to ask, do you love yourself enough to know yourself? And then once you see who you are, can you stomach living your entire life with this knowledge and truth of all your potential that gets beaten up daily by all your self-imposed limitations?
Yoga, like love, pushes you to start a ruckus, make a mess and tear open the twisted desires of your complex human heart, to rage so that you feel alive and finally touch the fire, passion, drive and aching burn for truth that makes up your core, your soul.
This is why most people do not want to practice Yoga. Why in the West we prefer Yoga Light, we fuse it, we take the pretty parts and leave the ugly, because that’s what we do with our own selves.
It is said that to love something, you must first hate it, and that is the gift of Yoga — it provides the repetition and awareness you need to break into a million pieces, deconstruct and rebuild yourself into something beautiful.