You’d be forgiven for thinking that yoga is all about making you happy, being positive, and looking on the bright side (well, either that or having a workout, but that’s a topic for another time). You might even find yourself thinking you must be doing it wrong if you’re still getting stressed/anxious/sad/angry etc.
But here’s the thing. Yoga is about becoming present and at ease with your deepest truest self. And that includes ALL the emotions, thoughts and feelings swirling round your mind and body at any given time.
I always feel better after practising yoga and my emotional wellbeing improves when I have a regular practice. But that doesn’t always equate to happiness. Sometimes feeling better means having had a good cry. Sometimes it means having worked through some anger, frustration, or anxiety. Sometimes it means feeling rested. Or energised. Sometimes it means feeling satisfied. Or motivated. Other times it means being ok with not feeling happy. Yoga gives me whatever it is that I need at the time, as long as I practice in a way that is in tune with how I’m feeling.
One of my students gave me some lovely feedback a while ago – “Beth teaches the balance of both accepting limitation and challenging it in caring for oneself.” It was so wonderful to know that this was the message they took from my teaching. I hope all my students feel like I provide a space where they can be as they are, whether that’s physically or emotionally, while also lighting a path towards positive changes. Yoga teaches us acceptance of where we are right now as well as reminding us that change is possible. No quick fixes. A constant balancing act between effort and ease. And getting to know ourselves better along the way.
How does yoga do this? It brings us into the present moment by focusing on our body and breath. It activates the calming, healing parasympathetic nervous system. It teaches us to be with and move through new or uncomfortable sensations. It releases tension in the body that is often a symptom of tension in the mind. It encourages us to notice what we find easy or difficult on the mat which might reveal our patterns and habits off the mat.
So if yoga is not making you happy, see if you can identify what it is doing for you. Perhaps it is simply helping you to live with a little more ease and to know yourself a little better. That’s just the beginning. And it’s pretty amazing when you think about it.