I hate yoga. Yet, you can find my ass on a downward dog daily. I hate meditation. Yet, I practice it every day. I have not found two practices that bring as much balance, joy and growth into my life as these two. Yes, I am deeply aware that not everyone has experienced this same level of benefit from yoga and meditation, but it has been true for me. How can a yoga teacher say they hate yoga? Here’s what I mean.
It may be more fair to say that I don’t hate the practice of yoga or meditation itself… I hate the industry around them (specifically in the United States). If you had told me a few years ago that I would be a yoga devout and a kundalini addict, I would have slapped you across the face. Silly, gal. But here we are, fully committed to both practices and relishing them. You should try them too.
So, what is up with the seeming disconnect between my devotion to these practices and my queasiness around the yoga industrial complex? This is a topic I am unpacking daily, but part of the problem I have is the level of righteousness laced with detachment from reality (no, you cannot just wish a new reality by positive thinking, specially not when we live in contexts that consistently oppress many) around the yoga and meditation industries.
There’s a particular brand of mainstream yoga guru that preach the yoga, mindfulness, meditation gospel in ways that turn off many people who would benefit from the practice. If I had a nickel for any time a Black or Brown friend told me yoga is not for them because they don’t “fit in”, I’d be set for life.
Don’t “fit in” with a yoga class? Me, either.
You know the practitioners I mean. These are the practitioners who take themselves all too seriously, focus on perfection instead of letting you know they are as much a mess as you are (if you ask me, that’s far more relatable), that growth and transformation is an everyday practice.
They are the spiritual gurus that tell you to simply put on a happy face and think positive thoughts because that will transform your life immediately. And do not get me wrong, I believe in the power of the mind and reframing your thoughts, but I also recognize the realities around me.
They are the girls who walk around in the yoga gear and whisper to their friends about how they prefer to travel in Italy instead of Spain because (whispered even more), “it has fewer Spanish people”. And when you confront them, they center their own pain by telling you how terrible it makes them feel to be called out on something they did not say maliciously (—true story).
They are the teachers who tell you you must absolutely practice at 4:30 am in the morning while lathered in cow dung because that’s the way it’s done. Nevermind that you have worked long hours the day before and can only practice for 10 minutes.
Guys, that is not how any real enlightened being ever flowed.
Enlightened people don’t have ridiculous rules and absolutes about yoga or meditation.
I recall attending a talk by the Dalai Lama that both rocked my world and drove this point home. That dude was a ball of laughter and then some. I had the privilege of practicing asana in India (you know, the birthplace of this magnificent form), and I wore my most comfortable clothing (none of which were Lululemon approved), so did my instructors. We laughed and chilled our way through some natarajasanas.
I loved how things can be different; how yoga can be both a deep enterprise that is inclusive and accessible; light and welcoming.
I’m not one to throw the baby out with the bathwater, so I’m here to tell you that, luckily, there are people within this world who get how ridiculous it all is (just take a look at JP Sears if you don’t believe me); how made up it all is. These are the people who are committed to making yoga and meditation an inclusive, accessible, deep and lighthearted everyday practice. As essential and meaningless as brushing your teeth (though I would argue that you can find meaningful transformation by sprinkling some mindfulness into the habit of brushing your teeth. In my world, that counts as meditation).
I’ve been coming back to yoga and meditation for the past five years and have been blessed to find practitioners who are a total hoot, a riot, and yet incredibly knowledgeable in what they have to offer (shoutout out to the amazing Jamie Graber and Connie Viglietti; to the brilliant Amy Ippoliti and Susanna Harwood Rubin).
This is definitely a case of it’s not me it’s you. So if you say you don’t like yoga, or don’t like meditation, I encourage you to find yourself a community like mine that takes these practices with respect but incredible commitment to, as my teacher and mentor Amy Ippoliti would say, the fullness of life. Because isn’t that the point, anyway?