I have been wanting to write this post for a while but I really needed to unpack and soul-search first before I could. You see…the thing is…I stopped practicing yoga for months after I received my teaching certification. Not only did I stop going but I wanted absolutely nothing to do with it and couldn’t understand why. Let me tell you, I was as surprised as you are! How could I be so anti-yoga after spending months reading, studying, teaching and practicing it daily? Surely that would have left me even more motivated and excited to continue? It didn’t. I felt so awkward when friends would ask me how my yoga teaching or classes were going and my response would be a confused shrug. Why did our love end? How could it be over so soon after it had begun? Here are the 5 reasons why we broke up:
1.) I lost sight of why I wanted to practice yoga to begin with.
Back when I was 15 years old, I had crippling anxiety and struggled to function in my day-to-day life. My mum had a friend who started teaching yoga at her beautiful little home and every Thursday evening, we would go and practice at her place. If you ask me today what is the best yoga class I have ever been to (and keep in mind I’ve been to many) I would confidently say that one. I would leave her gentle classes feeling much calmer and happier. In that hour, I didn’t have anxiety. I was connected. I was at peace. Years later, I began practicing yoga again at a studio five minutes from my home and found myself obsessed within seconds. What I didn’t acknowledge until recently however, was this time, I was practicing for all of the wrong reasons. When we go into something for the wrong reason (be it a relationship, job, friendship, hobby etc.) it becomes unsustainable. When we do things for the right reasons, they can last a lifetime. My motivation this time around was to be fit, cool and active. I wasn’t being authentic and my intentions were superficial. Reflecting on this truth now, it was no wonder I lost sight of how yoga made me feel back when I was a teenager. Yoga is good for my mind and body – that is all. That is the only reason I ever want or need to practice it.
2.) I became disillusioned by so called ‘yogi’s.
I am not going to name specific people in this post but I will say that in my teacher-training and daily life, I encountered ‘yogi’s’ that were quite hostile, aggressive and cold. This shocked me to the core. How could those that claim to promote peace, love and unity be so far removed from human warmth? I really struggled to understand some behaviour I came across during my yoga journey and I’m not ashamed to admit I shed some tears. I get that nobody is perfect and we all have our internal demons but this outward display of unkindness baffled me. At one point, I nearly quit my teacher-training because one of my teachers (not mentioning names) made me feel so small and belittled every question I asked. They didn’t create a safe space and because of this, the experience was a little bit ruined for me…
Disclaimer: I did not feel this way about any of the students in my course. We became so close and they are the most beautiful people. I love you all if you’re reading this!
3.) My muscular and anatomical limitations depressed me.
For as long as I can remember, I have always had incredibly tight glutes and hamstrings. This means that any yoga postures that require straightening your legs (and there are quite a few) are very painful for me. Even if I stretch for an hour, I still cannot comfortably do them. I remember in my teacher-training, one of my mentors told me kindly that even if I did the pose with bent knees, I was still doing it justice. I never forgot this and carried it with me… until I finished my course and began teaching for real. Suddenly, I felt like a fraud. How could I take my students through a Vinyasa Flow when I struggled to do most of the basic poses? I was embarrassed and self-conscious. Back when I was 15, I never once thought about my hamstrings. I practiced to stretch my body and relax my mind. Now, I was allowing my bodily limitations to depress and deter me from yoga when really, yoga is for all body types and it does not matter in the slightest how a pose looks like.
4.) I lost my spiritual connection.
Yoga is not about nailing handstands or wearing the latest Lululemon fashion. It is quite simply, to prepare our bodies for meditation. Now let me just clarify, I have absolutely nothing against Vinyasa or beautiful yoga outfits. I loved this style for such a long time but in the end, I felt excluded. I wanted to return to the basic Hatha Yoga that didn’t focus on yogi push-ups, difficult postures and bikini-bodies. I wanted to attend classes with people that were all shapes, sizes and ages. The yoga studio I practiced religiously at for two years was absolutely beautiful but the majority of their clientele were young and in great shape. I started to view yoga as a competitive sport that made pretty Instagram pictures instead of a deep, spiritual practice. The connection I once felt as a teenager was drifting further and further away. In November 2016, I cancelled my membership at the studio. I will always have fond memories there and truly loved the teachers but I found it was geared toward a certain niche of students. Once again, nothing wrong with this but it just didn’t suit me.
5.) I felt pressured to be a certain type of ‘yogi.’
I spent a lot of my spare time trying to perfect my handstand rather than be in the moment with my mind and body. I cared way too much about how my yoga outfit looked before class instead of looking forward to the hour ahead. I made it my mission to take a gorgeous picture for social media rather than developing my personal practice in private. I got caught up. Plain and simple. I felt I needed to fit a certain mould. I lost touch with what a true yogi is but hey, guess what? There is no ideal yogi. To practice yoga doesn’t even mean just the physical ‘asanas’ (postures). If you are mindful, you are practicing yoga. If you are honest, you are practicing yoga. If you are humble, you are practicing yoga. The list goes on. Never forget that the true purpose of yoga is to prepare you for meditation so you can achieve a higher state of consciousness. When I focused on the big picture, I no longer felt the pressure. I could just simply be…
So will yoga and I ever get back together? I worked through the five points above with an honest heart and a month ago, I went to a Hatha class at my local leisure centre. I was actually nervous as it had been so long. The studio was full of people all shapes, sizes and ages eager to relax. We stretched and moved our bodies in time with our breath. There was no pressure or competition. There were no fancy postures. The teacher was quite elderly and kind. It reminded me of my very first class as a teenager. I truly was back at the very beginning and left with a big grin on my face. Now, I practice when I want and on my terms. I may go back to teaching, I may not. The truth is, it’s very normal to have a passion and lose it. It’s okay to say something just wasn’t for you in the end. We are allowed to have a multitude of interests and life is a trial and error process where we try something and either love it or push it aside. I acknowledge that I no longer love yoga with the same intensity that I used to but I do know it will always be part of my life one way or another.
Thank you for reading my post. Let me know in the comments below what you think. Do you practice yoga and if so, why? Does it make you happy? Why or why not? I welcome all feedback.
Peace & Love xoxo