“That’s not very yogic.” I’ve been hearing that a lot lately, from friends and family, and even from myself when there’s no one else around, in response to a rant of mine, a mood swing, a dark cloud overshadowing my world, a desire of mine to shove the barking neighbour dog in a turkey fryer, etc. “You’re a YOGA teacher, Tabitha. You’re not supposed to say (feel, do) that. Something’s not going right.” And once the irritation of that statement settles, I find myself wondering what exactly people expect from their Yoga teacher, and from practices in general, be they marital arts, meditation, Qi Gong. What does it mean to be yogic?
I have a sneaking suspicion that what people expect from “enlightenment practices” is a cessation of human emotions we find disturbing–rage, impatience, despair, depression, and all other taboo feelings. Stuck in a “don’t worry, be happy” society that likes to brush all sorts of things under the rug, it seems we believe that if we just do enough yoga or meditate for long enough we will become happy, perma-smiley, practically-levitating-we’re-so-light kinds of humans.
My ex used to call me The Wielder of the Great Pin because I used to burst his bubble a lot with my sense of realism. Well, here comes the Wielder!
Folks, let me tell you a little something–no amount of yoga or meditation or ecstatic dance or martial arts will stop you from being human. That’s right! And being human means we are houses for vast amounts of perceptions and feelings. That’s what makes this human life so rich! Do you honestly think you could fully appreciate joy if you never felt despair? The most ancient traditions recognized that every ounce of light has a bit of darkness in it, and even the darkness houses some light. We can’t have one without the other. Life is full of contrast and paradox. It is our job to figure out how to navigate through these paradoxes with a little bit of grace.
And that’s what being yogic does for us. It provides us with choices. There is no longer a white lightening hot reaction to an experience; instead there is a tiny bit of space…..and choice. We learn to choose. For instance, while the barking dog next door prompts me to fantasize about throwing her into a turkey fryer, I do not do it. A loved one says something that hits a red button deep inside and, instead of lashing out, I breathe or I leave and come back to the situation to respond, not to react.
But let me tell you something, friends, if I haven’t slept well the night before or if I’m hungry or hormonal, I sometimes react. Yes, sometimes I fall from grace, fall flat on my face, and act from the dark place within. Because no matter how long I’ve been practicing yoga and meditation and ecstatic dance, I am still human. As a human, falling from grace is part of my job. The other part of my job is to recognize the fall and figure out how to get back up.
So if you think that by practicing yoga you are going to somehow become superhuman, I think you will be disappointed. Practicing yoga will provide you with the space and breath you need to make different, possibly healthier, choices in your life, but it will not erase your humanity.
Let me state it for the record here: I, Tabitha Kot, am a human being who teaches yoga. As such, I experience a wide range of emotions. I feel joy, lust, despair and betrayal. I experience rage and hate and the butterflies of love. I want to do harm and I want to gently nurture. I want to lash out, and I want to be peaceful. I am all things, shadow and light. I am a human being, and that’s just the way it is.
And THAT, my friends, IS very yogic!
Have a great day!