Tag Archives: yoga

On Anusara and Pessimism

That I am in a yoga teacher training program at all seems like someone else’s idea of my life; that I’m doing it while at the same time contending with a relentless rotator cuff injury of mysterious origin seems like a practical joke. But there it is, and here I am.

The teacher trainees have met twice now — it’s a weekend program, with the group getting together once a month, all day Saturday and Sunday — and each Saturday morning I arrive at the studio with the same hissing black cloud over my head. I’d be lying to you if I said it vanished in a tsunami of mental kittens and rainbows by the end of the practice on Sunday afternoon. Sometimes it does, but not always. Sometimes it sticks around for the rest of the week. And that’s fine — for now. I’m used to it.

The thing is, Anusara is just teeming with positive, cheerful, optimistic people. It’s a life-affirming, heart-oriented practice at its core. Now, don’t get me wrong. I know many of these smile-slinging, joy-radiating individuals have pain in their lives. It’s inevitable. We’re human. And certainly we can have a life-affirming practice while accepting and acknowledging that life can be a true bummer from time to time. Or even frequently. But the thing is, I keep coming across this personality in Anusara circles, this cheery, happy personality, and, well, it’s not very yogic of me, but I sort of want to smack that personality sometimes. (There are exceptions, and I don’t always want to smack everyone. Really.)

To be sure, Anusara’s life-affirming style is part of what attracted me to it in the first place. I mean, I can always use some cheering up. (That, and the nerdy alignment principles. Who knew I would ever geek out on anatomy?) It’s just a radical change in perspective for me — to dedicate such a big space in my life to a practice that, at its core, believes that life is good, when all my life I’ve essentially chanted an unending mantra of This Sucks.

  • Stuck in traffic on a two-line highway just outside of New York City, my husband at my side, a warm latte in the cup holder: This SucksThis Sucks.
  • Walking my dog through pristine snowfall on a quiet path in the New England woods out my backdoor: This SucksThis Sucks.
  • A tree in full leaf blocking the warm sun as it moves across the sky: This Sucks, This Sucks.
  • Waiting in table pose with a sore shoulder while everyone else in class is in adho mukha svanasana: This SucksThis Sucks.

You get the idea.

My life is easy, and it almost always has been. First-world problems all the way, even twelve years ago, in college, when I wouldn’t get out of bed to go to class, even ten years ago when I thought spending the rest of my life drooling onto the hardwood floor of a rented Brooklyn flat would be preferable to taking anti-depressants ever again (I did anyway). My life was easy, and it still is.

That knowledge will never make me less grumpy, less grouchy, or more inclined to spend my days smiling beatifically or greeting mere acquaintances with full-body hugs and earsplitting squeals of joy. I am emphatically not that kind of person. Stony silence, eye rolls, sarcastic jokes, and deep frowns are more my territory. I feel comfortable there. I don’t know that any amount of yoga — Anusara or otherwise — could wring that out of me.

But. But. There is something about Anusara, and yoga in general, that scrubs at some of that black crusty matter around my heart.

So, I’m a grouchy yogi. A pessimistic Anusara acolyte. What is that? How is it even possible?

In other words, can this eye-rolling pessimist really make it in this heart-lifted world?

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