Is Yoga Transformative?
Updated: May 20, 2022
Perhaps you’ve started “doing yoga” during the pandemics or you’re following a few accounts on Instagram and wonder, how does making pretzel shapes possibly transform a person?
Yoga is often described as a set of tools for healing and transformation. I myself have enjoyed using this wording when talking about my experience with yoga. You may see people coming out of a yoga class completely blissed out claiming yoga has changed their life.
But the truth is…
Yoga does not change you or your life.
Yoga does not transform you into a happy person.
Yoga does not get you rid of your bad traits or habits.
Yoga opens the doors for you to do the work, which is not always easy or pleasant. It’s not supposed to be.
Most westerners enter the world of yoga through its physical aspect – the asana practice. Either as a relaxing way to move for those who need to slow down or an entry into the world of fitness for those seeking healthier lifestyle, yoga asana has been providing safe harbor thanks to its adaptability.
Many come for the workout and stay for the peace of mind.
Physical benefits of asana practice are undeniable, but so are those of a workout or another type of strength training. What distinguishes yoga asana from the rest of movement practices is the connection with breath, which serves as a bridge between body and mind.
Breathing is involuntary. Our body does it for us. But living in the era of chronic stress and anxiety, slouching in chairs over devices, we’ve long lost the ability to breath well. When you start practicing yoga, your posture improves and you discover how to breath correctly again. This has a profound effect on your nervous system.
This is the bliss moment. This is when you walk out of your class in a dreamy state and absent smile on your face, because you felt your lungs full, your mind still (or at least a little less volatile) and your heart full. It’s addictive and you want more.
All of a sudden, you realize you can feel better, healthier, more peaceful. You discover the potential you and your body have. Perhaps you start “going to yoga” twice or three times a week. You make new friends who don’t drink alcohol and eat healthy. It all starts coming together. You make small changes and adjustments that make you feel better and you start convincing your friends to join you for a yoga class, because “it’s changed your life.”
All this is very pretty, isn’t it?
When we improve our physical health and learn better habits, we create space to uncover another, deeper layer of ourselves.
The hard work starts right here.
When you catch your breath and connect with your heart, because you’re now able to sit still in concentration/meditation, shadows come to the surface.
Remember when the most difficult challenge was to hold Bakasana for 5 breaths? How angry, uncomfortable or frustrated it made you class by class until one days you made it and even understood the meaning of “Sthira Sukham Asanam” – an asana should be sweet and easeful. You are now prepared to face your shadow.
All this physical work on the mat was in fact mental exercise of endurance, patience, determination and dedication. It doesn’t matter whether you’ve touched your toes the last time you practiced. What matters is that you’ve connected with your breath, listened to your body and faced the uncomfortable reality that you are not able to touch your toes.
That’s why you are now ready and able to stay still and observe, to welcome your shadow friend with kindness, compassion and understanding.
It doesn’t end here. There’s no “when I fix all my shadows I’ll be happy”. Be happy now because this is a lifelong work. We sit, observe and accept (and what acceptance means is individual), we befriend and perhaps even dissolve one shadow so that another one, from deeper layer, can come up and have a conversation.
What becomes different is how you receive your shadows.
Like I said;
Yoga does not change your life or transform the person you are. It helps you get ready to open certain doors, to peel layers and to face and accept what awaits beyond them.
It’s difficult if not scary work at times, but it’s also beautiful, empowering, full of life and… necessary.
I wish you empowering time on the mat and happy befriending. If want to share your experience or viewpoint, I'd love to hear from you. Please, leave a comment or get in touch privately via contact form. I'd love to have a conversation.