bad yogi on being zen
posted: April 9, 2014
Confession time: I might be the least Zen yoga teacher to ever walk the planet. I would ask you not to tell anyone, but there’s some freedom in admitting that. This super-Zen image that “real” yogis are supposed to maintain is so… unattainable! We’re supposed to be inspiring, vegan (vegetarian, at least), spiritual, green, decaffeinated, flexible, sugar-free, dedicated to our practice and totally easy-going all the livelong day.
That last one—that bit about being easy-going? It’s a big one. Whether you’re a teacher or a student of yoga, the resounding message is: through asana and meditation we can achieve total Zen and detachment from the stress in our ‘real’ lives off the mat. That’s right, we learn that if we stick with it long enough and we can basically circumvent the average roller coaster of human emotion by achieving an insanely high level of chill. Sounds awesome! Sign me up for some of that!
And here’s more good news: there are ancient texts and self-help books detailing exactly how to do this, as well as about a zillion articles with tips on just as many lifestyle websites, and countless Facebook pages manned by self-proclaimed gurus reinforcing why we should strive for all of this anyway.
Pump the brakes.
I call BS. Sure, yoga and meditation are awesome tools for helping us face life with more grace and level-headedness (eventually), but the idea that it’s a magic elixir for avoiding every lurking mini melt-down is just, well, maybe a teeny, tiny bit unreasonable.
Can we take just a bit of pressure off, please? I regularly get messages from people asking how to stay in a better frame of mind because they’re stressed that they haven’t practiced all week, stressed that they’re stressed about not having practiced all week, and stressed because OMG what if they never find relief from stressing over their practice?
Let’s pause and remember that the ideas and philosophies of yoga were passed down by people who lived in a different time and had very different lifestyles than we have today. Sure, they had their own challenges, but those weren’t jobs in the 21st century that required 40 (50? 60? 80?!) hours of their time every week, plus obligations to pay bills and student loans and make meal plans and get the car in for an oil change, only to have housework monopolize whatever time was left over.
I’m not saying we’re just destined to live bleak existences and too bad. I’m saying that we should tweak our expectations of what yoga can bring us and what we want to learn from of it, not get stuck in what we think we should want out of it. That could be the simple, humble goal of simply directing your focus inward, or it could mean something a bit more ambitious.
Yoga reminds us to be patient and compassionate, and we should extend those qualities to ourselves, too. We won’t always get it right. Sometimes we’ll be frustrated or jealous or anxious and that’s okay. The beauty of yoga is that each practice is entirely our own. We should drop the expectation that we need to become anything other than who we are.
I’ve been doing yoga for 10 years and I still drop an occasional F-bomb in traffic and wear mascara and a dab of concealer when I teach yoga because I like to feel pretty (and I totally have a complex about the grey-ish circles under my eyes). I’m no master of enlightenment, but as bad as this may sound, I’m not striving to be.
I have no idea if this journey I’m on is accurately ‘yogic,’ but I like me, mascara, road rage and all. And you should like you too, with or without 24/7 Zen.
Think maybe you’re a ‘bad’ yogi? Find out here.
Tampa-based vinyasa flow yoga teacher Erin Motz is not your traditional yogi. She happens to be the carnivorous, red wine- and French cheese-loving type, though she believes whole heartedly that yoga is for everyone, from the kale-loving vegan to the prize-winning deer hunter. She aims to keep her classes fun and accessible, both in the studio and online. You won’t hear much Sanskrit in them, and she’ll totally forgive you if you don’t know your asana from your elbow. Teaching yoga continues to be one of her greatest pleasures. “I practice to feed my teaching, but I teach to feed my life,” she says. Follow her on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.