I hate yoga. I love this.

Published on April 6, 2011 by      Print
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By Jasmine Lamb

I’ve been practicing yoga for more than ten years. Four years ago I completed a yoga teacher training. I don’t think it was until I became a teacher that I started to really hate yoga.

When I told people I was a yoga teacher they would immediately ask me what kind of yoga I practiced. I would stand there staring at them. I had no idea what to say. I hated the question.

So I’d say, “In my classes we lie around on the floor. You have to come try it out!” Or, I’d say, “I teach out of my own practice,” and watch their eyes glaze over. So, maybe I didn’t hate yoga, but I HATED talking about it.

Then, they would tell me about the style of yoga they practiced: “Anusara with a little Kripalu on the side.” “Bikram with a dash of Yin.”   And I’d think to myself: “I hate yoga.”

I had useful stuff to offer as a teacher; I just didn’t know what the hell I was teaching. I’ve spent my life sitting with and making space for what is difficult, what is uncomfortable, what is true. I know what it means to listen inwardly. Due to chronic health issues I’ve seen my body go from strong and flexible and vibrant to stiff and exhausted and undone. I have empathy for bodies! But for all that I have studied, what I was teaching and what I was practicing was coming out of my own direct experience of listening to my body and not following “the rules” of any specific yoga trademark. I’d go into downward facing dog, and within a few minutes I’d find myself stretching into postures that definitely didn’t have a Sanskrit name to back them up.

I wanted to discover what gestures were stuck inside of me and complete them.

And let me tell you, this doesn’t always look like “yoga.” Sometimes, it looks, like, totally strange. In my own practice I’d lie on the floor for many minutes holding a stick and seeing if I could sense it feeding me its stickness. I was getting really weird and listening in ways I didn’t know existed before. I was making way for the life in me to move on its own. Yoga seemed small and boring, and when I went to yoga classes I hated them.

I felt like I was being asked to fight my body and make it something it wasn’t, make it stay longer than it wanted to up in the air, make it open its heart when its heart was healthily exploring how to hide.  And I was being asked to do all of this in the name of Ahimsa and Shakti!

I struggled with what to call what it was I was doing and teaching. I called it Yoga/Movement. I called it Art. Not very many people came to my classes. I stayed home and rolled on the floor and discovered how to breathe through my radius and ulna bones. I stayed under the covers and listened to the inner call of the third ear.

Then, three months ago while visiting friends in Northampton, MA, I got dragged to a yoga class. I went along to be a good sport. It was an Iyengar class. I thought, “Great, yoga bootcamp with a bossy uptight strict no-nonsense teacher and buff young people impressing me with their freestanding handstands.” The class was held in a beautiful grand room and the beautiful buff young people filed in until the room was at capacity. The class began. It took all my concentration to follow the minute instructions about where to direct every bone and muscle as spoken by the beautiful bossy teacher. I didn’t even have time to be judgmental, because I was just trying to keep up.

And then I noticed that I was in downward facing dog as I’d never been before. I was doing a handstand myself, and I felt strong. The teacher had not said a single thing that had gone against the good sense of my body. I was in alignment, and we were in alignment. When it came time for savasana I lay there stunned.

I thought I hated yoga, but I loved this.

This teacher was with me, and this room was beautiful, and I was hooked. I felt the inner alignment that I’d learned to recognize from years and years of listening within. I was gobsmacked.  I could feel myself needing to put foot-in-mouth and take back my snide anti-Iyengar remarks. After class, I approached the teacher, asked her name, and told her I was going to move my life to Northampton and start studying with her.

And so here I am. I’ve moved three and a half hours from where I was living, I’m searching for an apartment, and I’m starting a brand new yoga teacher training next week. This may not seem as radical as following your guru to India, but in my mind it is almost as bad.  I don’t know why I’m doing this. It makes no sense to me. I hate yoga.

I still just want to roll around on the floor and moan. I’m scared all the other yoga students in the training will actually think yoga is cool and will want to talk about it. I hate talking about yoga.

But what I’ve learned from many years of slow inward movement touching silence is that, like Kris Nelson, I’m an asshole. This makes hating yoga and studying it at the same time seem reasonable.

Because the truth is, I don’t know.

About Jasmine Lamb

Jasmine Lamb is a teacher and healer and also the founder of the site All is Listening, where she writes a blog offering tools and tales for breaking up, waking up, and falling in love. You can connect with her on twitter.

 

 

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29 Comments !

  1. Kimberly Johnson says:


    Awesome!!!
    I love Eileen.
    She is that good. I get it.

  2. Yogi-A says:


    I completely agree with you about the whole “style of yoga” and taking the asana practice as an art of movement. I agree even more about finding your true self in the movement and not really just following a certain tradition. For that, I do “hate yoga-traditions” as well, and I also “love this free form and intuitive movement of the body.” (As far as how I interpret what you’ve I have said, that’s the message I got…)

    • Jasmine says:


      It sounds like you know what it is to find your true self through the event of movement. This is such an amazing experience. For me having found my way into myself through formless movement I now am exploring the possibility of bringing this same soft, open, clear unfolding into an asana practice. I’m so glad I’ve given myself the permission to let the unfolding come from the inside out. Sounds like you have done the same.

      Jasmine

  3. Suzy says:


    Really enjoyed your post!

    This line really resonated with me:

    “I had useful stuff to offer as a teacher; I just didn’t know what the hell I was teaching. I’ve spent my life sitting with and making space for what is difficult, what is uncomfortable, what is true. ”

    Looking forward to checking out your blog.

    • Jasmine says:


      Oh thanks Suzy,

      Yes, definitely check out my blog. It is all about making a home right here inside our difficult lives as we break up, wake up, and fall in love!

      Jasmine

  4. Karen Eckersley says:


    Congratulations on recognizing what works for you! And congratulations on not wondering what it would feel like.

    What I also really like about Iyengar yoga is that there is no space to flake out somewhere else in your mind. Your body is working and it takes some serious attention to listen to what it is trying to do. There’s no music, no mirrors, no ‘good pose’—only what you can do, where you are. Today. The alignment feeling is wonderful, but it’s not an end game. For me, just being able to loosen up my spine so it can remember how to move is just enough.

    Good luck!

    • Jasmine says:


      Karen,

      Whoa sister, you said it.

      Iyengar yoga ain’t flaky. I love this sentence: “There’s no music, no mirrors, no ‘good pose’—only what you can do, where you are. Today.”

      Thanks, Jasmine

  5. Chrissy says:


    Great post!
    I loved it because I too am an asshole! A happy one at that, but still silly enough to wonder why I also existed without a “yoga style”

    • Jasmine says:


      Chrissy,

      He he…I was just walking up the stairs making up some story about why I am the way I am or how it is going to get me somewhere great and then I stopped and laughed and reminded myself I’m an asshole. Then I felt so much better. Able to just love myself now as the jerk I am rather than try to think I can get out of it somehow.

      Here is to loving our goofy silly totally confused selves!

      Jasmine

  6. Meg says:


    I am struggling with this now. I am currently in yoga teacher training and it is vinyasa style. I feel like I am reading a script and everything must be perfect. I don’t feel like I can express my passion, the passion I feel when I am taking class. I am working on this and I know as I progress I will be able to veer from the script a bit but it’s so intimidating. It’s just not what I expected. Thank you for sharing this.

    • Yogini5 says:


      I am a hatha student with primarily a home practice. I started out not so much with freeform movement, but with mixing many sun salutes with a fusion kind of rapid pace practice (very mellow–had avoided inversions). Then added-on: one gym, four studios later, I plan to return (but sparingly, as schedule and budget allow) to the second of the four studios. Which is one of the charming Himalayan Masters kinds of styles–which is Iyengar but with ambient temperature, mirrors, fewer props; and chanting/chanting-infused pranayama.

      My home practice hadn’t been an effective practice before then. And the studio had been just too harsh on this body and disrespectful of my body-style.

      Well, anyway,I always knew I was obsessive. And sometimes that could be mistaken for assholery.

    • Jasmine says:


      Your welcome, Meg.

      Sometimes when we are learning something new it can feel remote and awkward and confining. Be sure to give yourself plenty of time to integrate what you are learning into your own felt sense, your own practice as you listen deep within and let go of what you are “told” to do!

      Jasmine

  7. adan says:


    your words speak directly to me, thank you ;-)

    though i’m not following a particular teacher, when i saw the 18 minute dvd “extra” interview with iyengar on the dvd for “enlighten up!” – i was stunned

    the guy was so extremely reasonable, and for the individual, and being human…

    can’t remember that little 18 min clip enough

    and your article has to rank up near there

    thanks again,

    adan

    • Jasmine says:


      Thanks so much Adan,

      The only teacher I am following is the one within. When my inner teacher brings me to an outer teacher I listen until my inner teacher takes me somewhere else. This isn’t the spiritual materialism of shopping around, this is the commitment to the truth even if it is confounding, perplexing, and demands I uproot my life and move to a new town!

      Warmly, Jasmine

      • Yogini5 says:


        Jasmine, I would not say I had been shopping around, either. I’d devoted many months (though only a few times a month) to one studio at a time–particularly my first studio–along with frequent, lengthy, intense home practice.

        I’d felt out of place beforehand in the gym, because many times I’d practiced on my own and included quiet chanting.

        Who knew that a very retro style, so under-the-radar, (the 2nd studio) would speak to me?

        Since my home practice was not quite as mild as that studio, I continued looking–and found many treasures.

        But that 2nd studio is located nearly spitting distance from where I live … and is a community center besides.

        And I belabor the fine points, in that way I could seem like an a*hole–but I’m really not. You, Jasmine, likewise may be less of one than you would like to appear to others …

        • Jasmine says:


          Yes Yogini5,

          I want to be a bad girl and an asshole, but it turns out most of the time I’m not very bad. But I am incredibly silly in all the stories I tell myself about why I’m doing what I’m doing and what it all means. Of course I love stories! But I also love the reality of life unfolding because it does without any reason–just because it is its nature.

          It sounds like you are finding your way to getting the support you need to have a yoga/movement practice at home and at the studio that suits you in this moment. I’m glad.

          Lets all not be assholes together.

          Jasmine

  8. Lizzy Tyler says:


    While you are in the valley, i recommend Checking out a class with Patty Townsen at Yoga Center Amherst. A studio where they actually do roll around on the floor, crawl, breathe through their Ulna and Radius and get REALLY weird, exploratory and experiential. You may find some kindred spirits there. It is truly Awesome.
    Eileen is one of the greatest teachers in the world. I have a few friends starting her Teacher Training now as well. Glad to have you in the valley!

    • Jasmine says:


      Thanks so much Lizzy. Where do you live? I’m really looking forward to checking out Patty’s studio. When I looked into it I thought, “Why am I not doing her teacher training? It is much more the ‘lineage’ I come from?” But then who knows why we do what we do. For now Karuna is my place.

      I hope our paths cross.

  9. Jen Saunders says:


    Beautiful. Just beautiful Jasmine. Thank you for sharing your story. Yoga is truly a gift – in many forms…

  10. Mandy says:


    Jasmine, you are, as awlays, AMAZING. I just love this ” I’m an asshole. This makes hating yoga and studying it at the same time seem reasonable.” I think we all experience this feeling in life at one time or another. Great post. Thank you :)

  11. Inspiration Collection 4. 8.11 « Ayanna Kafi says:


    [...] I hate yoga I love this [...]

  12. Lizzy Tyler says:


    Hey Jasmine!

    I live in Northampton and teach at the yoga sanctuary across the street from Karuna. I hope that our paths cross too. I have been trying to get to a class with Eileen for a long time. So maybe i will see you over there! I also study with Patty whenever possible so maybe there too!

    warm wishes!
    Lizzy

  13. Kara-Leah - The Yoga Lunchbox says:


    Great article. Loved it. I suspect from my own experiences that our bodies all know exactly what “yoga” they need to do, and it doesn’t always look like your common garden variety Asana.

    Actually, I reckon that those asana are the product of yoga, not yoga itself.

    My own practice is tuning into the breath and being guided from within. My body makes all kinds of shapes, and yes, all kinds of noises. Growls and moans are common.

    Classes exist to get us to a point where we’re connected enough to let go at home and trust the spontaneous movement that arises.

    But yeah, how to teach that? I’ve been struggling with that too… http://theyogalunchbox.co.nz/2011/03/21/why-i-almost-gave-up-teaching-yoga/

  14. Renee @ Thursdayyoga.com says:


    I haven’t been teaching that long, or even practicing yoga for that long. I dived into a teacher training literally 6 months after starting a regular practice, and I’ve been ‘teaching’ ever since. One of the things I’ve gotten right is that movement is magical when it comes from an intuitive place, and that I learned from having a pretty strong home practice, and very gradually starting to trust that yoga didn’t have to include any particular pose to be a yoga practice.

    ‘And let me tell you, this doesn’t always look like “yoga.” Sometimes, it looks, like, totally strange. In my own practice I’d lie on the floor for many minutes holding a stick and seeing if I could sense it feeding me its stickness.’

    I think yoga can be an art when we aren’t afraid to teach or be “totally strange” even if this means one loses students. I’ve had a fear myself that the more I know, the more I will lose students. And yet, there are enough brave people teaching authentically that I feel I can start doing that.

    You are an eloquent writer. Thanks you for this!

  15. Torsh Johansen says:


    Yoga is for pimps and bus drivers. ;)

    It’s a silly sub-culture that gives people the warm fuzzies. Stretching and structuring/positioning yourself in different ways isn’t going to help the earth, isn’t going to change the world — and isn’t going to make any huge difference to you.

    It’s being absorbed in a holier-than-thou sub-culture that makes people feel special & fuzzy. Sad people!

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