The Should Mindset

I know, I know.

I haven’t written anything in a while.

Truth is, I haven’t done much of any yogic-thinking in a while. I went through a short, yet intense (and apparently very common) yoga backlash.

A protest on all things yoga.

I think it all started when I saw a video of some Playboy bunny girl doing yoga with a (very) suggestive outfit and attitude. The video was not intended for anything other than to make the viewer drool. Ugh.

That really bummed me out, and I started taking a closer look at yoga. Well, western yoga. It all started looking so…commercial. Fake. Just like most everything else on this section of the planet.

8 yoga classes for fifty dollars! Yoga for your dog! Yoga will help you lose weight! Do yoga and you’ll reverse the aging process! 30% off yoga mats! We’ll even throw in a free yoga towel! Yoga if you’re pregnant! Yoga for stress! Get a better ass, do yoga! Don’t eat this! Eat that! Be like this, think like this, do this! Yoga will, without doubt, make your pathetic life a million times better than you could ever imagine!

I thought…what’s next? Yoga-infomercials, hosted by Billy Mays? Yoga Barbie? Is yoga just another thing for rich ass white people?

And worst of all…am I, as an avid yoga practitioner and teacher, perpetuating this pop yoga culture?

Obviously, this idea scares the shit out of me. To think that the nearest and dearest thing to my heart is just another thing to consume is scary and disheartening. This will forever be the Western yogi’s dilemma.

Because of all these doubts and questions, I got stuck in a mental rut, which of course led to a physical rut. Yoga started becoming a chore. I would lay in bed for twenty minutes before getting up in the morning, just thinking to myself…should I do yoga today? Is it really that important? Somehow, I convinced myself for five mornings straight that yoga was all bullshit and that there was no reason for me to be doing it. So, I didn’t practice. For five straight days.

The mental aspect of this rut was the hardest part. Yoga was only the first of many things I considered giving up. Climbing came second. I have been at the same climbing level for years now and I was just sick of it. I thought, maybe I should try a different sport. That’s right…I had these thoughts even about climbing! The thing that I have loved for years and years.

Okay so maybe the word “rut” is an understatement. Maybe “on the brink of giving up everything I really love” is a more accurate description of what happened.

It got worse. This attitude started showing up in all aspects of my life. All of the sudden, I felt like the relationships in my life should for whatever reason be better, more passionate, less difficult to maintain.

What started with doubting yoga turned into doubting, well…everything in life. I think that happens to a lot of people, especially this time of year. At least I hope I’m not alone in that things-should-be-different downward spiral, a vortex that keeps sucking you in.

Because honestly, if you start thinking that way, it is very easy to find flaws and shortcomings in every single thing on this earth. Nothing is perfect.

So I had to stop using a word that I previously thought was an okay word to use, not like “never” or “can’t.” My parents never told me that this word will get your mind into trouble too.

Should. Add that to the list of Don’t Say Me Words. Things should be this way, I should be better at climbing, yoga should be pure and perfect, I should be closer with this person and should love more deeply. I should not have to deal with the shit that I’ve been dealt.

My life should be different.

I catch myself thinking like this a lot, and I catch other people using this word all of the time. Being less than satisfied is all too common, especially is our culture, where we are constantly bombarded with the idea that our lives are pathetic and mundane and stupid and worthless.

Let me just say that this is one rut that I am very glad to be out of. It felt pretty hopeless.

So don’t let yourself get into that vortex. It will suck majorly. Instead, know that this idea that your life is “lacking” as defined by our culture, is where the bullshit lies. Practicing and teaching yoga that discourages the only-for-rich-white-people side of it is all that I can do. Maybe the fact that there is that fake Hollywood aspect of yoga makes it even more special for those of us who want it to be special.

Know that your life and my life is good enough. You don’t need to make a resolution for the new year that somehow promotes the fact that you and your life suck. Vow to stop using the Should Mindset, if that is what you need to to.

It’s all okay. Our ideas of how our lives should be is keeping us from The Good Life, the life we already have.

Yoga is starting to act like my mama

I have to admit something. Before I do, keep in mind that this blog is not intended to promote yoga–I simply want to share my experience, I want to tell you the truth. You deserve the truth.

Now that that’s settled…

I am really fucking mad at yoga. It’s been confusing the shit out of me, in many ways.

I’ve stopped running. Almost completely. What I used to do every morning, what used to give me moments of clarity, has been replaced with a 15 minute meditation and hour long asana practice.

So yeah, I’m pissed right now. I love running. I miss running, I miss the way my body feels during a post-run shower.

You’re probably thinking, well just go run! That’s what I told myself at first too. But it’s not that simple. I’m not mad because yoga has taken Morning Run’s time slot. I’m mad because yoga makes me have no desire to run. I don’t know why yoga does this to me, but it is the most visible change that it has had on my life as of now.

Maybe I just don’t have enough sweat in my body to run in the morning and go to Hot [Get Your Ass Handed To You] Yoga in the afternoon. I literally could have wrung out my tank top after class tonight.

It makes me want to cry, typing the words: I don’t run anymore. I prided myself on being a runner. It was so a part of who I was, something I liked about myself. I was the coach and creator of a running-training program for GSU students–those nights we practiced were really fun and inspiring. Running made me feel strong.

How can something like that be lost, in just three short months?

I want so badly to want to run.

When I was in California, a friend from high school asked me a question that I didn’t know the answer to at first.

“How has it changed you?” she asked while we were at a bar, leaning in close, yelling over the music and conversations.

“How has what changed me?”

“Yoga.” She smiled.

At first I was thinking about the mental stuff…am I more at peace? Am I happier? Am I a better person?

I had no idea.

I told her I didn’t know.

“I mean physically. Is it changing your body? Do you live differently?” she asked.

“I don’t run anymore,” I said, realizing in that second how badly I wished that I still was a runner.

Yoga is literally getting up in my face, holding me by the collar, challenging my identity. I don’t know what to give up, what to let go, and what to hold on to. I’m not just talking about running…I mean everything. What is dear to me? What makes me Georgiana Lee Abel?

The yogic philosophy emphasizes letting go–of thoughts, judgement, ego, things that no longer serve us. I get that. I feel that. I feel how that benefits my life. Yoga also encourages us to forgive. But how do we know if forgiving someone or letting go of something is really just a surrendering of our self worth in disguise? Are these spiritual devices keeping us in bad situations?

How do we know if we are getting fucked over? How do I know if I should still be running?

Towards the end of the hot flow class tonight, we did Karnapidasana. I think that’s how you spell it.

Karnapidasana

Karnapidasana

I truly didn’t even realize how funny looking of a pose this was until I googled it–while I was in the pose, I didn’t feel funny looking at all. At first though, this pose was really hard for me. My knees were hovering above my head, I wasn’t letting them release all the way down to the ground. A part of me felt like, my body shouldn’t be able to bend like this, my knees shouldn’t be able to touch my ears, hold the pose here Georgie. Don’t let go. I started shaking.

Then the teacher (Kendall, who is awesome) came over to my mat to give me an adjustment. She could tell I was clenching, holding. She barely even touched me, but I slowly released my knees down to the mat. My knees were touching my ears. The pose become solid, I stopped shaking. I felt strong and rooted down.

Karnapidasana became super relaxing, it made me melt.

I gained strength by letting go.

Maybe this is what being strong is all about. Maybe this is how we find what really lies within us.

Whether it’s letting go through forgiveness or giving up judgements or accepting that you have lost the desire to run…it’s all the same. In the big picture, forgiving someone is only going to benefit you, give you peace of mind, make you strong. The same goes for giving up something you once did, whether it was a good or bad thing. The universe, and your life, is undoubtedly unfolding as it should. Go with it.

Yes, I’m still mad at yoga. But I’m mad like I used to sometimes get mad at my Mom or Dad when I was a teenager (or when I am feeling like a bratty 22 year old)…in the end, I know they’re  right. It’s just that the thing they’re right about is hard to accept or carry out.

Don’t be a brat. Surrender. Let it go. Be strong.