Yesterday a student confided in me that she is having challenges with her teenage sons, which often leave her incensed. “That’s bad, right?” She asked. “I do yoga so I shouldn’t feel angry, right?”
I knew what she was facing. For years now whenever I mention to someone that I feel drained, overwhelmed, or angry the typical response is, “But you’re a YOGA teacher”. As if teaching yoga is equivalent to being high on happy pills 24 hours per day. Make no mistake, I estimate that I do feel content, happy, peaceful, and joyful probably 90% of the time. That doesn’t make me immune to feeling grief when a loved one is ill or dying, nor does it prevent me from feeling overwhelmed when I have a zillion things on my to-do list. What it does do is make me more aware of what I am actually feeling in that moment. I no longer feel the need to put on the faux smile and tell others I am “great” when I’m not. I have become more accepting of the present moment in whatever it brings. I encouraged my student to acknowledge her anger the next time it comes up and to take as much time alone as she needs to process it. Pretending it doesn’t exist and scolding ourselves for not being the picture of calm will only push those feelings down. The further down they go the more they become the poison that is resentment. As Dr. Wayne Dyer says, “resentment is like drinking the poison you intend for someone else”. Enough said.
Our yoga practice becomes our dress rehearsal for these situations. A classic overachiever for most of my life, I was quickly humbled when I began practicing Ashtanga yoga. Headstand was rough for me. Scary, difficult, intimidating, frustrating, etc. I spent weeks if not months pretending to not feel those things. Eventually it became impossible for me to wear the facade of “no big deal” on the outside while the fire of all those nasty feelings burned brighter inside. On the brink of giving up, I finally admitted to myself that I was scared and frustrated. Upon acknowledging those things I was able to see deeper into the root of WHY I felt that way. Headstand was just the catalyst for old, dingy fears and judgements to bubble to the surface. I made peace with how I felt. The pose was no longer the end of the line for me. I realized that even if I never achieved the pose itself it had been cause for exploration into my higher self. And that was certainly worth it. In hindsight I came to see that if I could overcome an obstacle such as this maybe I could face challenges off the mat as well.
Only when we accept what IS can we find peace. Not what we want it to be, not what it had been yesterday, but what is here, now, in the present. If acceptance is challenging remember the golden rule: When in doubt, remind yourself that this too is impermanent. It will pass. Knowing that it will not last forever makes the pill of acceptance easier to swallow.