Not everyone who practices yoga is happy; and that’s okay

 In *from my heart

I experience anxiety and depression.

In my life, I have fallen into despair and loneliness, had suicidal thoughts, cut myself to purge the pain, taken anti-depressants, and curled up on my floor in isolation. I’ve held hands with terrible feelings and had many “dark nights of the soul.”

I am sharing this confession because I want you to know that you are not alone. Society encourages a pleasant disposition. Public media feeds such as Instagram and Facebook show us photos of friends, adventures, happy families, and celebratory events. Yoga – branded by vibrancy, positivity and Lululemon smiles – may seem unwelcoming to those who don’t currently feel like life is great.

You may start to think you’re the only one who feels so bad.

The pressure to be pleasant may deprive you of the opportunity to connect honestly with your fellow soul travellers. Or even worse, it may deprive you of the opportunity to connect with yourself.

Our mats are not places to be perfect, or even places that we have to be particularly happy. They are places to be authentic. The mat is a place where it’s okay to cry. They are places to give ourselves permission to feel, practice self-care, and use our beautiful physical bodies to potentially shift our experiences. We can move with our feelings, rather than cover them up.  If we are anxious or depressed, the physical practice can help us shift our physiological and psychological states, even if it’s just for an hour. We remember that we are more than just our thoughts and emotions. We have a glimpse that there is something stable, pure, and beautiful within each of us.

My invitation: please come to the mat. And bring your whole self.

Bring your fatigue, your soul hunger, your yearning, your imperfection. Bring your sadness, your disappointment, your anger, your fear. Bring your anxiety, bring your depression. The yoga practice celebrates all of your humanity; not just the shiny bits. Of course, bring your joy, your excitement, and your utter magnificence as well. But they are not required for admittance.

Has the yoga practice helped me personally with my anxiety and depression? Yes. It’s one of the reasons that I am a teacher. Yoga has given me an alternate form of self-care, when I’d rather just drink wine, eat cake, and watch Netflix to numb the pain. The yoga practice helps me to find the crack where the light comes in, to break my heart open rather than close. To lean in rather than run away.

I’m going to share a secret with you: most of your yoga teachers don’t do yoga because they are naturally happy, benevolent, and grounded. They are teachers because they also need the practice.

You are not alone.

So come to practice. Your whole self is welcome here.

Let’s light our lamps in the dark.

 

 

 

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Showing 11 comments
  • Mark Gerbrandt

    ‘The wound, is where the light enters you’

    Rumi

  • Erica

    Thanks Rachel – exactly!! Really appreciate you expressing this Couldn’t have said it better myself… 😉

  • Rachel

    <3

  • Chiara

    How lovely and honest, Rachel. You should do a video of this, like your Mat Chats. It would be so inspiring.

    I’m a longtime fan, and I only wish I lived in Vancouver and could train with you.

    Namaste, Chiara

  • Rachel

    Thanks Chiara, what a wonderful idea. I will do that.
    I’m so glad that you are enjoying these. Meantime, you can practice with me at doyogawithme.com.
    Thank you for connecting!:) xoxo

  • Kyle Mikami

    I’m glad that I am not alone. It’s nice to see someone I follow express the same feelings as me.

  • Yog Rishi Brajesh

    Hello Rachel,

    I am a yoga teacher from India..!! Really Very Honest..!! Yoga is the natural way to stay happy, healthy and stress free.

  • Reshma Pancholi

    Such a refreshing read. Love your work. Thank you. So happy to have found you. Nastamsay here!

  • YogasPeace

    Thank you for sharing this piece of yourself with rest of the world. Many of us need to hear over and over encouragement from others when suffering or feeling anxious.

    Please check out my article about Inner Peace at http://www.yogaspeace.com/newsite/finding-the-inner-peace/. Thank you

  • Brenda Nelson

    I totally agree! I especially loved the part where you said “helps you find the crack where the light comes in…” I have actually, much to my surprise, cried during a class when my “crack” opened up for me. …and I’m the tough kid that would never be caught dead crying in public!! But I let it be ok and flowed through it like my body was flowing through the poses. That quiet release was what I needed at the time. Yoga finds me and accepts me where I am, no matter what. Totally checking out your DoYogaWithMe.com next!! 🙂 Have a great day!

  • Irene Vrbensky

    Love this. Thank you. A friend of mine once said “People are not as strong as they appear”.

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