|David Swenson, Ashtanga teacher extraordinaire|
But as of last Thursday, I hadn't done so much as a downward dog in almost 4 years. Why? It's complicated. What I loved about yoga, what originally drew me in, was the focus on the self. There's no competition or comparison, just you and your asanas. There's always work to be done on your form and perfection is (happily) unattainable. But I found that too many studios were encouraging a sort of clique-y environment, all about who had the cutest yoga rug and whose forward bend was the best. Mirrors in the studio are helpful for alignment, but aren't so great when you see everyone scanning and judging the group.
I struggled with an eating disorder for almost 15 years, and this sort of scrutiny was too much for me. I became disenchanted with yoga, as I realized that it was becoming unhealthy for me to engage in the body competition. I also became frustrated with individuals proclaiming themselves as "gurus" and cultivating a rabid (and exclusive) following. That wasn't what yoga meant to me, so I quit.
Was quitting the best way? No, of course not. I could have searched for other studios or focused on practicing at home - but it felt like the best solution at the time.
I've missed practicing over the years, but was too damn stubborn to go back - until my Creativity and Innovation grad school class met at a studio last week. I can't tell you how good it felt to stretch my body and use forgotten muscles. I slept better that night than I had in a long time and I'm looking forward to going back. What changed? Me, I guess. I'm in a better place mentally than I was 4 years ago. I'm less concerned by the judgement of others, and less inclined to participate in the competition. Maybe I'll even succeed at meditation this time around...
For anyone looking to learn more about yoga, check out the following websites.
The Amazing John Friend
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