In the West, most people think Yoga is the art of pretzel poses. You pay a lot of money for props and mats and clothing, then go a a studio and proceed to twist and turn and find out just how not flexible you are, all while one person in the center front row does the hardest, bendiest version of each posture.
The asanas (or postures) are simply one aspect of yoga. In fact, many believe that Patanjali was talking about finding a comfortable seat for long meditations – not moving about like a gymnast.
Just as there are many different styles of asana to practice these days (Jivamukti, Vinyasa, Yin, Bikram, Acro… just to name a few), there are also many different types of yoga in the broader, philosophical sense: Bhakti, Karma, Jnana, and Raja.
Bhakti Yoga is yoga of the heart. But it is more than that. It is offering your whole self – heart, love, actions, everything – up to the Divine, however you define it. In lieu of Divinity, offering your whole self up in service for the Greater Good.
By and large, Yoga is an energetic practice. The physical practice is meant to keep the prana or life force moving through the body. When the prana gets stuck, energetic and physical inflexibility occur. Yoga gets things moving, often whether you want it to or not. Even if you only go once a week and it is a Power Class and you leave before Savasana, it can get to you.
Which is why you so often see regulars who suddenly disappear from classes with no warning. This happens to everyone, even yoga teachers.
You see, once the yoga (whatever type you practice) starts working, I mean really working, it gets hard. I don’t mean pretzel-pose hard. I mean, oh my god everything I thought was true is just this story I told myself so I wouldn’t huddle in the corner crying.
…and then you find yourself huddling in the corner, crying.
If you’re not ready for the hard, the easiest thing to do is to find another path to be on. Which is what I did a few years ago. For a while, I was devoted to yoga. I went at least once a week, sometimes twice. Every week for a year and a half solid. And then… well. I stopped. Maybe I’d go once every six months or so but that’s it. It wasn’t until I dove into a yoga teacher training that my practice had been so deep.
And it once again got hard.
The tears were there, just under the surface. All the time. I didn’t even know what they were about. Although, while I felt the weight of the sadness, there was an underlying joy and bliss.
Energetic, emotional and mental releases often blindside us, and often come as a result of something physical (yoga, massage, exercise), but you know what? That’s okay. Because when we open our hearts – as Bhakti yoga teaches – the world becomes a much smaller, more intimate place. Compassion comes forward, and life is Beautiful.
So the next time you have a massage, or take a yoga class, and you find yourself fighting tears, don’t. Let them come. And don’t give up.
Because it is working.