so, my yogathletica classes are, admittedly, really hard. and the other day one of my regular (and quite strong) students was struggling through a challenging posture when she suddenly just stopped trying and with tears in her eyes and a choke in her throat implored me “i thought yoga wasn’t supposed to be stressful! i thought it was supposed to be relaxing!”
i don’t think she realized how dead-on her question was. and i certainly know she didn’t realize that the answer lay right in the asking of the question.
yoga isn’t meant to be stressful. though it will often test your equanimity.
sure, there are forms of yoga that are more relaxing, stretchy, chill. then there are the more physical, challenging, difficult practices. one of the objectives of a harder practice is to discipline yourself to stay calm and nonreactive regardless of the outcome of the poses. yoga is the acceptance of the process as is. knowing that the best you can do is the best you can do and all that matters in the effort.
when my student burst out in class, she had already lost the practice. by simply making the statements that she did, she was admitting that she had missed the point. yoga isn’t stressful. it’s your reaction to the yoga that makes it stressful.
yoga is a microcosm of our lives. we (often) enter in child’s pose, always end in corpse. what we do in between is what defines our countenance and how we deal with stress in our lives.
think about it.
most people come to yoga from their hectic lives, turn the “noise” off, get quiet on their mats for the first few breaths, melt into the practice. then they start moving. the next hour-and-a-half is just a slow build back to the stress and frustration that characterizes their whole day. and then, ahhhhhhh, savasana and all is okay in the world. until namaste and they walk back out of the class, back into their crazy daily lives, back into the stress, which builds and builds until they find their mat again. maybe the next day. maybe the next week. maybe never.
people who are very high-strung hate yoga. they want to be perfect at everything. they hate the process. the work. and…ultimately, the stress that they create around it.
yoga is very wabi-sabi. it’s imperfect. it’s an evolution. a process. it’s work. when you step back and acknowledge this, the yoga is no longer stressful, but rather a calm, open, and accepting process that allows you to work to your edges and always be good enough. now isn’t that a relief?