By Kathleen Calder
In yoga classes that I’ve attended in various places across North America, the postures and physical focus are used as a tool to triumph over the emotional body and mind – two aspects of each human being that are rather important for personal growth. It feels ironic to me that yoga seems to be passed down each lineage without much consideration of this. In my experience, you seem to be expected to attend class and focus on improving control over your body, mind and emotions, rather than experiencing them in a real way. In many ways, yogic philosophy seems to be, or at least seems held by most people to be, about achieving enlightenment through mastery of those three realms.
I have yet to encounter a lineage of yogic practice that actually embraces emotionality and doesn’t encourage the participant/”yogi” to transcend what they are feeling or thinking.
Stillness is wonderful to achieve, but beating yourself into submission to it and not feeling what is there for you to feel is both extremely unkind to the self and our subpersonalities or parts of us. It is also nearly impossible to achieve in this western culture that we have signed up to live in. In this way, yoga has become a form of medication to the majority of western practitioners.
I have also felt a preaching-quality to some yoga classes, as if you are attending church. While I feel the spirituality of yoga should remain intact, the preaching can be a bit much to take in. Especially when most of it is about learning to shut out my mind and emotions from my practice, while my healing work “off the mat” is about going into these very places and learning to love them for what they are. In SoulFullHeart, we challenge the parts that hold our emotional reactions so that they can grow and heal, but never do we try to shut them up or put them out of their misery. My own experience with trying this method is that it doesn’t solve any problems or complete any unfavourable patterns in my life. I tried to use yoga to numb my emotional reality or at least get space from it.
I didn’t realize until I reached a certain point in my personal SFH process that I was doing more harm than good by not actually feeling my emotional reality and pain. I was powerless to change anything in my life for good. Even the body that I achieved from a combination of yoga and other physical activities didn’t last, despite my best efforts. Ironically, though yoga is supposed to help you to find balance (and I do believe that it can potentially) I actually ended up quite out of balance. My Daemon, Itsan, offers me that he feels if more yoga teachers were empathic and honoured the emotional journey and healing that yoga can actually help you access, then their students would have a real opportunity to become their most balanced selves – a goal that many people have when they engage in their practice.
“In fact,” Itsan says, “though many would disagree because at this point they have not been taught any differently, it is impossible to achieve the sage-like balance that most students seek without learning to feel and honour your parts and their emotional realities. For you to feel ‘at one’ with the Universe, you must be in better touch with your psyche and what it holds, not trying to master it. It cannot rest, just as your parts cannot rest, until it is felt. This is honouring your life – past and present – and is a step that cannot be skipped no matter how hard you try. This is especially true in western culture where people are riddled with wounded parts, mostly because of the harsh ‘doing-ness’ reality that they all must live in. ‘Being-ness’ means being with what is…and that includes whatever it is that you are in that moment.”
In other words, it does not feel realistic to expect yourself to become more naturally serene or meditative while you refuse to heal to that place. It is time for a yoga offering that embraces emotionality.
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