I had an epiphany during yoga practice on Tuesday night. I’ve been silently chastising myself for the fact that I’m struggling with my vinyasa practice lately. I’ve been telling myself that I’m not getting to enough classes, not consistent enough in my practice, I’m doing too many restorative classes (as if there is such a thing as too much!) instead of vinyasa classes, and my strength and stamina have deteriorated as a result, which is bad. I’ve been mentally beating myself up, for undoing all the good that I’d achieved with my practice in the first half of 2014. I had come so far, and I feel like I’m back at the beginning. I’m letting myself down, being slack, not being disciplined enough. My ego has been running rampant, telling me stories of how my teachers have no doubt noticed the deterioration in my practice, that they wouldn’t think very highly of me, and that it’s a visible sign to others that I haven’t got it all together. I even felt the pang of jealousy when I heard a teacher compliment another student on his beautiful practice. I was the one receiving those comments six months ago.
Then, on Tuesday, it suddenly dawned on me during the middle of practice – it doesn’t matter.
Yoga is not an ideal to be achieved. It is not a spectator sport. It’s not about progression.
Yoga is about the here and now. It is the union of mind and body. I have been missing this point for months.
My new mantra, which has brought me so much peace in the past few weeks, applies to my yoga journey:
I am exactly where I am supposed to be, and my journey gives me everything I need to learn and grow. I trust the entire process. The Universe delivers everything I ask for, and more.
So, it doesn’t matter. The deterioration of my strength and stamina is simply part of my journey, part of the process. I don’t need to berate myself for it. It isn’t bad, it just is what it is.
Of course, I’d like to improve my practice and regain my lost yoga fitness, even surpass it. But instead of striving for progression, adding love to this equation means that the outcome is irrelevant. Even if I never progress my practice from where it is today, it will continue to serve me well. I am nourished by my yoga, it teaches me stillness and presence. For that, I am grateful.
BRINGING MY YOGA PRACTICE INTO MY DAILY LIFE
I mentally beat myself up for all kinds of things on a daily basis. I’ve learnt that this habit is destructive and useless, but it is so ingrained that it has been a tough one to break.
For the purposes of shedding light on this struggle, I wrote a list of everything I could think of for which I berate myself. When I got to #37 without the end anywhere in sight, I decided I’d better not continue down that dark and depressing hole. It was obvious that, as countless people have told me over and over again for many years, I am very hard on myself. The vitriol that I brutally douse myself with repeatedly throughout every single day, is so toxic, cruel and ruthless that I would never even contemplate inflicting it on any other living creature. And yet, for me, it is the every day, every hour, every minute norm. I suspect that I am not the only one with this horrendous habit.
Why we think it is ok to treat ourselves in a manner that we would never treat another living creature is beyond me. Perhaps it’s a psychological issue that someone knowledgeable could explain, but I’m at a point where I don’t care about reasons any more. I just care about solutions.
In the wider scheme of the Universe, the things that I berate myself for are not inherently bad, just as they are not good. They are what they are. The “badness” is something I attribute to the thing in my mind. The goals I’ve failed to achieve, the ideals I fail to live up to, the skills I am deficient in, the struggles I face, the mistakes I make, the dreams I haven’t made manifest … they’re all essentially meaningless. None of it matters. And yet, I am so emotionally attached to every single one of them, it’s hard to believe that they don’t matter.
Let me stop talking figuratively, and give you a specific example to illustrate exactly what I mean. My biggest “bashing” item on the list at present, is how I feel about my experience of motherhood. Oftentimes, since I gave birth to my second baby, I’ve hated motherhood. I LOVE my precious babies, but I hate motherhood, because it is so damn hard, frustrating, monotonous, relentless, overwhelming, all consuming, and heart breaking. I feel as though I hadn’t fully established who I was pre-kids, let alone now that I feel so lost in motherhood. Of course, there are days scattered amongst the endless months where motherhood feels peachy. I also realise that “hate” is a very strong word to use about this period of my life, especially when I also associate this time with the miracle and beauty of my children and the intense love that I have for them. Let’s put it down to hormones (can I still blame them 3 years post-partum??), a tendency to dramatics, and laziness with accurately describing my feelings, but hate is just the word that slips out of my mouth.
So, I mentally flog myself for feeling these feelings. I know I am privileged to experience motherhood. I know I chose this path. I am so grateful to have been given the role of mothering these two precious souls. I know. I even know that my attitude about this, quite frankly, sucks. But, as so many before me have said, although I was told it was hard, I never anticipated the pain that motherhood would bring. I tell myself I am a bad person for feeling this way, for not loving and cherishing motherhood. I tell myself that these feelings must be damaging my children. I feel so much guilt, I feel shame, I feel unworthy as a mother for not yet having found a way to make motherhood feel great. I’ve made my feelings bad, and I’m convinced of their “badness”.
So, how can I bring my yoga practice to this part of my life?
Just as yoga is not an ideal to be achieved, neither is motherhood. There is no perfect way that motherhood is meant to be experienced that I should be striving to live up to. It simply is what it is. It’s a word used to describe an experience that I currently find myself engulfed in, that doesn’t need to be experienced in a prescribed way. It doesn’t matter if I like it or hate it. That doesn’t make me a good or bad mother. It doesn’t diminish the love I have for my children. Motherhood is not who I am. It’s a word to describe something I’m experiencing.
My yoga practice brings me to the present. It puts me in the here and now. If I do that in my motherhood experience, I can be present with my kids. I can put the frustrations and the overwhelm into perspective. I can keep calm amongst the storm.
If I bring yoga to my motherhood, it doesn’t matter if I’m hating it. It’s part of my journey, part of the process. If I continue to hate it, that’s meaningless. If I add self love and acceptance for my feelings of hating motherhood, instead of berating myself, I might actually just hate it a little less, and find the space to love some more, to accept the difficulties, and find more joy in being with my kids. But the outcome is irrelevant, and not what I need to focus on.
So now I’m beginning to understand what my teachers are talking about at the end of class, when they say to take your yoga practice into your life. I think that if there was less “mental bashing”, and more presence and love in my life, miracles really could happen. I can walk my path knowing that I’m simply here, and I love, and that is enough.
*Image credit: Yoga class, by Augusto Mia Battaglia. Under licence.