Don’t Tell Me To Relax (and other reasons I don’t do yoga…)
The minute you tell me to relax, center my energy, find peace in some fucking place in my body that is currently itching and maybe even has a rash, I will want to cut you, and that is not relaxing. (Seriously, don’t tell me how to feel, okay?) I am happy to try and contort myself into any position you want, because playing with bodies is pretty much my favorite thing in the world, and it feels good, which is probably why I tried yoga yet again, but why are you telling me how I should feel about it?
I feel about most yoga classes the same way I feel about Fitspo propaganda: it’s guilt inducing bullshit designed to trap you in a slow slink to idealized conformity that is soul-crushing and body-harming and fuck you very much.
There seems to be this myth in the yoga world that “centered” looks like one thing, and is the goal. Or that “peace” is a thing you can achieve while licking your navel, or that “stillness” is where all the magic is, or… And while I honestly believe that for some people, that’s the way it works, to approach a class of people and assume that same goal for everyone is no better than me approaching a class of CrossFitters and saying “if you work hard enough, you too can have a bikini body some day.”
“Bikini Body” is a meaningless phrase. Want a bikini body, put a bikini body on it. Boom, bikini body. But beyond that, there is the cultural assumption that only those who are thin and “toned” (another bullshit phrase) are doing it right, and therefore earn the bikini.
So to with “calm” and “inner peace” and….
First off, everyone’s “happy place” looks different. I am at my happiest when my brain is racing a mile a minute and I’m writing stories in my head and planning dinner and….. THAT IS MY CALM. I know it sounds nutty to some of you, but that is my calm. And it’s not because I am in any way uncomfortable with my thoughts and impulses and “truest inner fuzzy wuzzy being.” It’s just how I am. And after almost 50 years on this planet, I’m good with that.
If we assume a continuum of how people are, that ranges from “pretty much moss” to “erupting volcano,” then you can see how everyone center is different, right? I sit squarely on the “rumbling volcano” spot. If you draw a circle around my general energy range, the center is on “rumbling volcano,” but the edges reach out from “erupting volcano” to “not truly dormant.” So, my center is pretty high and hot energy.
But nearly every time I have tried a yoga class, someone has told me how I should feel. Specifically, that I need to calm myself, lower my fucking vibrations, chill. Think about that. “In order to be good at this, you need to not be who you are, and instead achieve this other goal that we decided is right for everyone.”
How does that differ from “bikini body?”
I am the last person in the world who is going to deny a mind / body connection. I 100% believe that my mind and body are so connected that they are really just “me.” When I am depressed, I am low energy. When my mind is doing its awesome acrobatics I want to work out hard, create all day and then fuck all night. I feel joy and sadness in my body as physical things. What I want, when I do ANYTHING with my body, is to access my own energy. To let my mind race and frolic and not concentrate on any one thing. I want to pillage the curiosity shop that is my brain with great abandon. It’s not fucking calm, I can tell you that. No matter how still I am on the outside. When you tell me to calm and empty my mind, you tell me that the awesome show inside my head is bad and wrong and I’m doing it wrong.
I am the only person who gets to decide what I want for both my mind AND my body. This is my journey. My body. My exploration.
This is true of all things, really. Just because one way of doing something is right for you, and is what you studied, that still doesn’t mean it’s the right path for everyone.
Dude, my attempt to de-clutter left me a stressed-out shame-filled neurotic mess crying on my husband’s shoulder about what a failure I am. News Flash: I’m a slob. Any attempt to make me not a slob results in not only my life sucking, but everyone around me having their life filled with my suck. This is not a path to peace.
But, back to bodies… If I walk into your class, and you assume your own goal for ME, you have done me a huge disservice. You have failed me, just as much as I would have failed a student of mine by telling them they need to be skinny.
Peace and calm is not everyone’s goal. Bikini body is not everyone’s goal. People’s bodies aren’t shaped how they’re shaped because your doctrine hasn’t been adhered to. We are all a complex helix of DNA, upbringing, patterns and hopes. You don’t get to tell people how to feel or why they are how they are – or why they feel how they feel about why they are how they are. You do what you do, and that’s it.
Keep your ego-creep out of my psyche.
I get it, I work with people’s bodies and minds too. All day long. And I had to take that big humble pill and remember that I am not in charge of them. I can facilitate great discoveries in them, by them, but not because I get to decide what’s right for them, only because I make sure they are safe with me. Physically and emotionally.
It’s the Socratic method of coaching. “How did that feel?” “How do you feel?” “Does that feel right for you?” “What would you like to change?” You telling me about you, not me telling you about you.
Never: “Work for this goal that I set for you.” “You are not doing this right.” “You need to be feeling this thing.”
Not, “your muscles are tight because you’re carrying too much emotion.” Fer fucks’ sake. (I have heard some version of this every single time I’ve done a yoga class. It’s the body-work equivalent of “no one will love you until you love yourself.” Translation, “you’re in pain because you’re really not good enough to have figured yourself out.”)
Here’s the irony: My husband and I own a gym, and are constantly trying to get more people to do yoga, because it is soooooooo good for their bodies. We are constantly chasing that balance of strength and mobility, because one without the other is really a recipe for injury. I love (the idea of) yoga as a physical thing. I would prefer to call it “mobility,” but that is totally not sexy, and all of our instructors spent a lot of time and money to call themselves yoga instructors – not to mention the whole cultural appropriation thing, and I have no idea how not to fuck that up – so we call it yoga. Because that’s what it is.
But a huge part of why we can’t get people to do it is because of all the “baggage” that traditional yoga has given them. “I can’t stand all that woo-woo stuff,” and “I’m just not zen enough,” and…..
And yes, that’s why I don’t do it as much as I should. Too many people have told me that I’m too emotional and firey and whatever to deserve that deep exploration of my body.
So ya, fuck that. I’m going in. I promise. I mean, I have 3 instructors on staff, in a CrossFit gym, where “fuck” is said all the time. Surely I can be me, without shame….