yoga is selfish

I’ve heard a lot of opinions about yoga. Most of them I laugh off. But when Ben, a man who doesn’t practice, said “Yoga is selfish,” something was triggered in me.

I could have easily argued with him that yoga can save the world. I could have told him how all of the world’s issues are about one thing: humans are hypnotized into separation. And I could tell him that yoga connects us to ourselves, each other and the world. Anyone who has google can tell you yoga means “union”…

But instead I chose to examine why this opinion in particular set me off.

What truth in ‘yoga is selfish’ am I unwilling to face? 

I’m afraid that yoga doesn’t really work. I’ve seen a lot of shitty yoga drama. All the way from students to the people running the yoga businesses, I have seen some ugly and shockingly misaligned behaviors.

I’m afraid that this random comment from Ben, was true and all of my efforts, my community, the people I’ve trusted and looked up to, are all a cosmic joke.

So I dove deeper, what do I know works? 

Yoga, the way we are practicing it now, is oriented mostly towards a practice of connecting to our bodies. To me, this works because our bodies are made by the same wisdom that created the sun, the galaxy and the universe. If we go into our bodies with our awareness, we are bound to discover the wisdom of creation.

Conceptually, you probably understand this. But a concept won’t be enough. We can’t just walk around talking about this wisdom, we have to access the wisdom and let it walk us.

Access to this wisdom is through the sensations, all of them. We all know wisdom lives in joy and peace and enthusiasm, but wisdom also lives in feeling the residues of trauma, feeling the pain of separation, feeling the guilt. We have to face our demons, not just get on our mats and hope we will “sweat them out”.

Is yoga really working?

The thing is, many “yogis” are unable to dive through the pain and alchemize it into wisdom. Many of us have conceptually accepted we are divine beings, but less of us have actually been willing to dig down to where that truth lives in our bodies.

Why are we so quick to throw a yoga cliche up and avoid the deep stuff? We could point fingers at the system, the teachers, the magazines, the money. Or we could take personal responsibility.

We have to be willing to undergo the discomfort of transformation INSIDE of ourselves.

Pointing fingers is a shitty behavior, so I have to reveal where I see this in myself. I LOVE the spiritual story that “only what is here and now exists”. This allows me to not believe children are starving in Africa, that’s just an illusion. I’m not dismissing the wisdom of here and now, I’m admitting that I was using it as a spiritual band-aid to avoid pain.

Two weeks ago, that band-aid was ripped off. I was attending an event about Leadership and presented the opportunity to make a donation to the Unstoppable Foundation, a non profit that builds schools in impoverished areas in Africa.

When I went to the Leadership event, I didn’t know I was going to be asked for money. As the opportunity to give was presented, I felt all sorts of extremely painful sensations move through me. I was mad, I felt tricked, pressured, disgusted, guilty, shame, deep sorrow.

Pretty much all the stuff I was sweeping away with the “illusion” story.

My throat tightened, my chest was on fire, my ears were steaming, my entire body was enraged. I could have easily walked away from those emotions and taken the easy path “This is my body saying no”.

However, instead of throwing another spiritual band-aid onto the experience, I chose to sit and feel. That’s when I realized those intense sensations were my comfort zone screaming out at me. I had reached an edge, and by moving through that edge and donating with intention, I transformed myself, and made a contribution to a powerful organization.

In order to stop pointing fingers and start taking responsibility, we have to ask ourselves some tough questions:

What are your spiritual band-aids? What are you unwilling to look at in the world? What does that show you about yourself? What part of you is in charge of the choices you make?

If we yogi’s stopped worrying about how many people were in Peter’s class, and instead asked: what impact am I making on the people in front of me that will shift the global consciousness? How is teaching and practicing warrior 2 going to help with this pivotal moment in human evolution?

If my life, not my words, is my message, what is that message?

So maybe Ben was right, yoga is selfish. Maybe yoga is another band-aid. Or maybe, yoga is the perfect tool to take us through the edges of discomfort and into the land of transformation.

I love you. Thank you for reading.