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  • Ryan Bailey

Bending The Practice of Yoga

I have been thinking about this one for a long time. Not a new concept by any means, but every time I talk about it in class or workshop or with my personal clients I see the light bulb moment happen. The moment is this, when they realize that our efforts in a physical practice of yoga are not for use to express yoga in a way. It is about us allowing yoga in, allowing yoga to transform us on every level. It typically starts from a physical manifestation and leads us to the deeper layers. Simply put we are not looking to change yoga, yet we are looking to let yoga change us. Seems very straightforward and simple right? Well we seem to forget this at times when we practice and start getting in the way of the practice working. The way it is manifested can be through additional movements to the practice or adding our own preferences. Maybe even skipping poses we are not “good” at. Looking for ways around things that are uncomfortable or challenging. This is us bringing all of our stuff to the practice and trying to make the practice fit us. This is what I have seen not be a very effective way for transformation. Being we are working our own stuff into the practice, just like we may do everywhere we go. We are looking to be more aware through a physical practice of yoga. To pay more attention on every level. One of the main teachers of the practice can be the struggle so to speak. The place where we start to see our deeper patterns of habit and triggers arise.


I know you are thinking but Yoga is supposed to feel good and I am supposed to be Zen while doing it. I think this is another misunderstanding about the yoga practice. I feel if we never meet discomfort we are only choosing to show and see our best attributes if we are only seeing our strengths we are not on a path to becoming more complete and whole. We are painting a picture of ourselves as that and will only be creating more of an illusion of sorts to perceive ourselves as great. At least for me what I have noticed is we put a lot of emphasis on identifying our strengths, which is great. But to truly know yourself, you need to know all the parts of you. I look at my mat as one place that I can really work to see the darker parts of me, my habits and tendencies I want to see and expose and start to work through. That seems as though I am looking and searching out the darkness within, I am looking for the stuck places and starting to work on them. This is where the learning is. Not picking your best pose and posting it on social media. We have done a horrible job at portraying yoga a certain way, and glorifying ourselves and others for being bendy or talented as though yoga helped us do it. Some of that may be true. But I am seeing we are missing some fundamental truths about what we can be looking for while we practice.


It seem we have been potentially conditioned to steer away from our weaknesses or our challenging areas. I feel like we can change that! Use the practice of yoga to see yourself. Every part of you to the deepest layers. It should reveal all of you, even the parts you pretend don’t’ exist. The parts you are not happy about and don’t want anyone to know about. The time on the mat is meant to get you to a place of ultimate connection and absorption when everything potentially becomes one. We cannot see the whole picture by folding it in half and choosing to see only what we want and feel good about. It is time to step up and see ourselves and start doing what ever work is presented to us in a loving open way.

There are always different angles to see this from. I am not saying don’t modify the practice to suit your body in the moment. My philosophy is to modify based off necessity and feeling, not desire or preference. Modifications are great with purpose and with the intention of working towards the poses in a way that helps you progress in a safe and effective way. I see students modify or teachers offer modifications to help people avoid the struggle and let them escape themselves. I know it is challenging but I believe in order for it to have the effects we are all looking for we must embrace the struggle, invite the suck! You will learn and grow much more from this than you will the things you are very good at and can perform with ease.

Remember we are trying to allow transformation through doing the practice of Yoga. Allowing Yoga to change and shift our body to then get to the deeper layers of the soul, spirit and mind. If we are after Samādhiin any way, we are not getting there through rose colored glasses. We are not trying to change the practice so we feel better about what we are doing and pretend the dark challenging parts don’t exist. We want to see ourselves fully. This is something I feel is tragically being missed. We should struggle a bit, may be at different levels but if we want the yoga to work without any struggle then it will not do what it has the potential to do in any way.


Imagine you were reading any ancient text, the Bible, Sutras what ever you prefer. You have a black sharpie. When you come across parts of these text you don’t like you begin to cross them out, so that it fits your views and opinions better and you are more comfortable with what the text is offering. Hmmmmmm, get my point. This seems crazy. If I am choosing a text in that manner to guide me and help me transform and offer me ways of being the best version of myself I can’t just change the parts that make me uncomfortable. If it makes you that uncomfortable then you are right in front of yourself and the yoga. Don’t run, stay put look at it, research it. The more we work in the areas that are screaming for our attention, the better opportunity we will have to shift, to become more whole and alive. The balance we are all seeing comes from seeing all of ourselves. I know that is hard at times. But better to know what you are working with then to pretend it does not exist. The practices are steady and strong, they have stood the test of time. Sink your whole self into them and let them change the way you see yourself, so that you can change the way you see the world. Your level of perception will elevate. You will begin to see things in whole. There are many layers to all of this. My offer is to stay open, make effort to see it all. Allow yoga in so that it can do the work you are seeking. Steer away from bending the practice, allow the practice to bend and steer you in way you never could have imagined.


Much Love, RB

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