The Yoga Sutras won’t fix you

Published on October 16, 2012 by      Print
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By Kirk Hensler

I get it; I see why you’re shying away.  The posts that used to make you roll over with fits of laughter are now making you feel judgmental and irritated.  It’s that time of year when we’re all fucking miserable because it’s getting dark earlier and we don’t have anyone that exciting to snuggle up with (with the exception of those that do, and, fuck you btw).  Working sucks, people are dumb, family is annoying, and life is challenging.  Which makes it not okay to make fun of something you hold sacred at the moment: yoga.

But what you might not realize is that we only have a bone to pick with yoga because we love it so much.

It’s like that time you fell in love so hard, but your partner just didn’t show up in the way that you needed them to.  They were flawed and it tore you up because it wasn’t the perfect match made in heaven—the partnership you needed in order to cope with this confusing and sometimes utterly painful lifetime.

The sarcasm and off-color commentary are too close to home for you right now.  And suddenly, it is your job to stand up for the honor of the yoga religion.  This means no more participating in yoga bashing or denying the fact that even the most perfectly practiced yoga lifestyle cannot protect your from inevitable suffering.

But don’t you see? Those who suffer the most in the end are the ones who fall victim to the greatest amount of attachment to dogmatic tendencies.  You know these people: the 27-year-old recent yoga teacher training graduate that cites the Yoga Sutras at least ten times a day in normal conversation with friends.  These people do not understand themselves, so they adopt a philosophy that someone else created and call it their own.  It has to be true for them, because that is the easiest solution. The search for answers is therefore officially over.

Think about talking to an old high school friend in your new yogic tone and imagine what that would feel like.  It would be a struggle, and feel unnatural, and you would probably eliminate those people from your life completely, writing them off as “un-evolved” or “threatened by your recent development.”  That may be partially true, but at the root of the tension is inauthenticity.  It doesn’t take a genius to smell it, and it certainly doesn’t attract other people unless they are equally as enamored by the illusion of enlightenment.

That’s not to say that people can’t change and adopt new ways of living.

It’s just that to really understand something you have to be able to make it your own.  It has to come off naturally, in your own words, derived from your own experiences.  It is psychologically impossible to grow up a suburban middle-American and then just decide you are going to flip a switch and become a native Hindu that has been practicing yoga principles your whole life.  It’s a reflection of a confused, lost person that is struggling with self-worth.  Sorry.

Can people try to fucking let go of their obsession with being peaceful and all-knowing all the time? Sometimes there are no answers or explanations for the shit sandwich the universe has just served you.  It sucks, but it sucks even more if you spend time trying to muster up some Vedic wisdom to understand your experience.  It’s your experience, and it’s about the time you sit and observe and notice the unique effect it has on you, not Patanjali.  You could be taking your own notes, making your own observations, and writing your own Yoga Sutras, and that would be the only book that would have any relevance to your life.

We need to stop striving, seeking, reaching, pretending, deflecting, defending, attaching, attacking, arguing, misunderstanding, misinforming, pushing, pulling, fighting, struggling and strategizing, and just start fucking living, paying attention and figuring things out for ourselves. I’m getting a headache reading and hearing things people say that didn’t come out of their own brain because they don’t even know how to listen to the intuitive and powerful voice in there.

The information is all there already; we just need to listen.

The suffering will slow when we stop trying so damn hard.  Everyone is fucked up, and therefore nobody is fucked up.  It’s all good.  So stop being so damn pretentious when someone challenges your way of thinking because you’re ultimately just scared that they may be right, and your whole operation will be undermined, and you’ll look like a big dummy.   



About Kirk Hensler

Kirk Hensler was raised in metro Detroit on a steady diet of meat, potatoes and team sports. As a competitive athlete, he relied on his speed, power and dominant attitude to excel. Years later, when he took up martial arts, he was tossed around a sweaty dojo for months by various women and children. One day, while horizontal on the mat, he had the profound realization that their patience and finesse quietly trumped his strength and aggression. This led to an exploration of ancient Eastern philosophies, which, in turn, led Kirk to Taiwan, where he taught English, studied martial arts and ate a lot of delicious and strange street food. When Kirk returned to the US, he began applying what he’d learned to his Western, urban life and to his career as a wellness coach, martial arts instructor, and yoga teacher. Check out Kirk’s hip hop video. 

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  1. noname says:

    You clearly know nothing about the Yoga Sutras.

  2. cresta says:

    What an enjoyable post! Well written! My favorite line is “Everyone is fucked up, and therefore no one is fucked up.” Indeed.

    I never expected the sutras to “fix me”, but I have read them a few times over the past half decade, and I enjoyed the book. I must admit though, that the only thing that comes up right now when I try to recall the sutras is the bit about “ignore those who are doing misdeeds, have compassion for those who are suffering hard times and share in the joy of those experiencing good fortune”. I like that concept a lot—and it’s helpful.

    You seem to want everyone to be authentic/real and figure shit out for themselves and not pose and not play the holier than thou card. I get it. It can be tiring being around that.

    But please cut us a bit of slack— we’re all learning and developing. Very few of us are at a stage in the game where we can stand on our own two feet, spew our own sutras and be awesome. We have defense mechanisms for a reason—to defend the parts of ourselves that are not yet fully formed, the parts that are still vulnerable. When we’re ready, we’ll shed those falsities. But sometimes we have to “play” at things, try them out—like when we were 4 and playing pretend.

    So please forgive those of us who may be a “suburban middle American, confused lost person, struggling with self-worth”. We are just at that awkward “tween” stage and you’re like an awesome big brother on the football team stage. We look up to you!

  3. Vanessa says:

    Isn’t it just? Lovely.

  4. Lindsay Bell says:


    A few months ago, before my break up with yoga, I met the ever (we can call him MHME for short). MHME was smart, witty, and gracefully pushed up into Urdhva Dhanurasana when, on our second date, I thought it was my job to help him “open his heart”. At first my yogic tone and ways were cute and made me seem kind of quirky and fun, but when faced with insecurities (does he like me? will we find ourselves snuggling on the couch this winter?), my yoga-speak went into overdrive. This wasn’t deep, or a reflection of all my hard work on finding inner peace. Indeed “It’s a reflection of a confused, lost person that is struggling with self-worth”. MHME and I did not work out. There are surely many reasons, but one lesson I learned was being inauthentic pushes people away, and worse still you feel crappy that they never got to know you because you were hiding behind tons of yoga BS. To be sure, life served me a shit sandwich and the all I can think is “this sucks”.

  5. Carly says:

    Yes yes yes! I have been trying to push myself into this yoga teacher box when deep down, I felt really inauthentic. Naturally, in my core (and I don’t mean my abs), I don’t follow anyone elses rules or suggestions for living my life. Trying to do so for the last few years “on the yoga path” just wasn’t genuine. I quit teaching (this is my last month), which was the right decision for me. I still love yoga and the way it makes me feel… but my practice comes from a much more real place now without all the bullshit thinking that I needed to be a certain way.

  6. Omiya says:

    People seem to be missing the point of this post (great post btw). It IS ok to study the Yoga Sutras and talk about them. What is not helpful is to pretend that one is enlightened and peaceful at every moment of every day, and to have an ego about “knowing” more than others or being more “spiritual” than others. This is the common North American yogi problem known as “avoiding the darkness” (and being competitive). (Sorry but) the Anusara philosophy was especially bad for this.

    Talk about the Sutras or other yoga philosophy. Try to understand it. Know that it is still OK to still be upset or confused or depressed or angry. Any external teachings are but a tool for us to help us understand ourselves and live in this (often difficult) world.

  7. Omiya says:

    Oops I wrote this too slowly, not referring to the last 2 posts.

  8. Jenifer says:

    As I freaked-out ranted on an EJ post about “pledging to vote” yesterday. . . LOL. . . I also stated what I believe:

    most people are decent, good people. most people are capable of taking care of themselves. most people don’t need to be told how to live, how to be a good person, how to vote, or which side of the road is “correct” (or “right” hehaha. that’s an in joke when you end up driving on both sides of the road eventually and it’s totally legal).

    Also, the yoga sutras does not speak to the driving rules, anyway.

    And, I have a 4 yr old. I freak out every 15 minutes because no matter how cute he is, he is also incredibly annoying. HIs teacher tells me that he’s going through his most current testosterone surge and that’s why he’s so aggreeive with EVERYTHING. “Here, let me KISS YOUR FACE CLEAN OFF! I LOVE YOU SO MUCH! TESTOSTERONE!”

    Yeah, not peaceful. LOL

  9. Brant says:

    I sort of wish this post was really more about the Yoga Sutras as a text, rather than Yoga Sutras as an object. That said, it does feel like people sometimes treat them as a pill to be taken , rather than a text to be wrestled with

    But I believe they can help one gain deeper insight into the practice, where we fuck it up is looking for any of this to “fix” us. When it’s doing the real work, this practice seems to make me face, more and more directly, all the fucked up parts of myself. Where I have to be careful is trying not to then get away from or become better than that stuff, and instead have compassion towards it. This is what should make yoga different from a self-help program , right? And why we in our self-help self-improvement culture struggle with it so much? I know it’s personally really, really hard for me.

    I do, however, think you’ve really hit the mark when you say : ” the most perfectly practiced yoga lifestyle cannot protect your from inevitable suffering.” Except I would say that only pain is inevitable, suffering–well, that’s something we can slowly work on.

  10. Mara says:

    Love you, Kirk. I’ve been teaching for a good long while and my approach/attitude/whatever in class is essentially to lighten the fuck up. I always love reading your articles. Keep em coming.

  11. Lindsay Bell says:

    The only thing I love more than this post is your hip hop video.

    • Emily says:

      Bahaha, I LOVED this post.

      As a 27-yr-old newbie teacher it totally resonated ;) hahaha

      I try to teach from a place of truth (god that sounds corny but it’s what I mean). I might incorporate yogic philosophy but only that which works for me and helps me feel more peaceful/mindful/quiet. I’m honest when it comes to chakras and kundalini – I don’t get this stuff, don’t buy it so stuff it, it doesn’t get a mention.

  12. Sandy says:

    HA!! Very entertaining.
    Best part: ‘tossed around a sweaty dojo for months by various women and children…’. That for me just sums it ALL up!

  13. Leigh Ann says:

    This is going into my top 10 favorite Recovering Yogi posts. Spot on. Love it. Shortly after my 10 year teaching anniversary, I broke up with yoga. I needed some space. I had lost myself somewhere along the way and I began to feel like a fake standing up in front of the class. It’s been a year and a half. I have gotten back to my old self and I am going to ease back into teaching next month and see if this time around I can maintain my own identity while sharing all the wonderful things I DO love about yoga. It’s all about the balance, right?

  14. (0v0) says:

    “I’m getting a headache reading and hearing things people say that didn’t come out of their own brain because they don’t even know how to listen to the intuitive and powerful voice in there.”


    In my RSS feed, right there. Please keep doing this.

  15. Jade Doherty says:

    LOVE this! So bloody true!

    Whilst Ancient Texts, or current texts at that, might be over-flowing with Truth, it doesn’t matter if it isn’t true for me. Like knowing the rules of football does not a footballer make.

    Thank you for this funny, witty and true post!

  16. A List of Lovely - Lettuce Be Lovely says:

    [...] Everyone is fucked up, and therefore nobody is fucked up.  It’s all good. [...]

  17. jcook says:

    Thanks for the rant, um I mean story about the sutras/authenticity. I appreciate realism. I appreciate recognition of the western mind in 2012 with all the fuck words. It is refreshing to acknowledge our quest for ‘getting it right’ and in doing so, a 60 min yoga class will get us there. Sometimes there is a statue, a muse or something very Hindu related to start classes I have attended. Durga, this strong chick with all these weapons – we can be her too. No, unfortunately that is what I am NOT. I am not kali, durga, lakshmi, shiva, shakti, boom boom or whatever. My lineage is eastern european, holocaust victims, lots of sadness and stuff. If an angry bird was put in front of the class as my muse, well maybe I would identify. Now that I am diving deeper into my 15+ year practice, I know how to contact my body and organize a shape with my breath. That’s really it. I go on my mat and breath and watch my thoughts and breath again. When a teacher turns Hindu on me I know it is her stuff, not mine. Her running away from being a woman in 2012 dealing with universal chaos, not mine. New teachers can’t find themselves after a month long training for many reasons – I agree – taking on someone else’s philosophy and teaching. Also, many of them are twenty somethings that are not fully developed as adults. This seems normal to me now that I am in my 40′s and my life experiences force me into growing up still searching for the practictioners that study the sutras and live wholeheartedly using them as guidelines for their practice. That is a disciplined path – But it is your path. If you are teaching get your shit out of that room – hold a space for others to eat their own portion of spiritual food. No need to shove it down their throats. Amen.

  18. Bheemashakti says:

    No need to leave a comment. It’s all good.

  19. Dumb Surfer says:

    Cutting through Spiritual Materialism by Chögyam Trungpa
    The title tells it all, only read the book if you don’t understand.
    Yeah, I am portraying spiritual materialism, because I only need the title, that makes me think I am better than you..LOL
    (Nearly all nuances of spiritual materialism are presented, great read)

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