Life Strife, Or How Yoga Doesn’t Fix Anything

One of my favorite jobs is being on the faculty of the yoga teacher training program (YTT) at blue lotus, where I teach anatomy, teaching methodology, and other fun stuff.

In our most recent YTT module, one of the trainees posited that yoga teachers always present as being all full of love and light, and she didn’t see how that was possible. I so appreciated her attitude, which seemed to be a mixture of “you’ve gotta be kidding me” and “well, I guess I’m screwed then.”

I have to confess that I always feel a little creeped out by the “love and light” phraseology that floats around the yogasphere. Because, really, someone who will never cop to having a bad attitude, questionable intentions, a judgy/mean/selfish side, or a totally shitty day of his or her own making—that’s someone I don’t trust. Like, not at all.

This woman’s comment made me ponder some on the image that we yoga teachers can be at risk of projecting: an untenable tranquility, based on the myth that if you practice yoga well enough or diligently enough, you’ll somehow be rid of the relationship woes, body woes, job woes, or any other woes that may have driven you to try yoga in the first place.

Let me say this for the record: If I have ever suggested or seemed to suggest that yoga can cure you of your life strife, I so apologize! Not only is that simply untrue, but it hurt my heart a bit to consider that this lovely, smart, skilled, vibrant, and strong woman in our YTT felt she didn’t measure up just because she didn’t feel all happy-go-skippy all the time.

I’m never the oldest or the wisest person in any room, but I will put some money down on this idea as a truth: Struggle never decreases. And we shouldn’t expect it to. There will be ebbs and flows in terms of tough times and easy times, but life is not designed to have some gradient of increasing ease and tranquility for folks who “do right.”

Life will always, always include struggle. But as the adage goes, pain is not optional; suffering is. And that’s where yoga comes in. Doing yoga will never, ever, ever make your life easier. But it can absolutely, positively, fundamentally improve your capacity to enjoy your life, however much struggle you’re moving through on any given day.

And isn’t that what we’re all after, in our own ways? To make the most of the time we’ve got? To feel better, no matter what’s going on around us or inside us? I think yes. So I do my practice. And the struggle stays real—but it also gets a bit sweeter.