There’s this perception that yogis are in a perpetual place of peace. Constantly floating on a chakra-colored cloud of consciousness. SO not true.
Yogis get angry, impatient, fearful, agitated, and sometimes just downright banshee crazy.
Yogis can be unkind. Dishonest. Greedy. Envious. Think the opposite of all those beautiful notions described in the yamas (the yoga ethical guidelines), and you’re at the opposite end of peace. In other words, you’re a human being.
In a former life, as a business exec in the demanding high-tech industry, I welcomed yoga as a release from stress and a return to sanity. My husband welcomed my yoga practice even more—for his own sanity. When your beloved tells you, “Umm, I think it’s time you went to yoga”, you know you’re behaving more Banshee than Buddha.
From the start, yoga transformed the way I felt, gave me glimpses of bliss. And when that peace disappeared (sometimes it didn’t even last much beyond the yoga studio parking lot), I realized that I could find it again and again, by simply returning to the yoga mat. And the more I returned, the more peaceful I started to feel.
If it Weren’t for Yoga . . .
We are wired to respond to life in certain ways—a result of genetics and cultural influences. Some behaviors can be modified or softened over time, but others remain unchangeable.
Thousands of Oms later, yoga hasn’t changed the way I’m wired. I’m still me. I am Not the Dalai Lama. I am just a better person than I would be, if I weren’t practicing yoga.
There are still evenings I come home, ranting about some idiot driver on the I-95. I am also capable of a heated and colorful conversation that would make a sailor blush (perhaps, delivered in my South African accent, I can get away with that, somewhat). There are days when I look at the world and feel great depths of despair and sadness; the antithesis of peace.
Here’s the difference: Pre-yoga, I would have burst a blood vessel or kicked the cat in anger (metaphorically—we don’t have a cat). Or I would have reached for a giant-sized tryptophan treat: chocolate cheer and sugar satisfaction.
Yoga and meditation have changed my perspective of the world and how I interact with others. I now have an entire toolbox of techniques to help me experience equanimity. I pause to observe my emotions and thoughts, and then consciously choose a state of peace (or not—and then I notice the consequences of my choice, and learn from that). These are powerful skills for navigating through life, beyond the rectangular strip of the yoga mat.
Yogis may not always be in a bubble of bliss, but through yoga we smile at the joy of landing more often on that chakra-colored cloud of consciousness, however long it lasts.
[as published in Today’s Yoga Magazine]