Doesn’t yoga make you calm?



In my case, I think it goes both ways. I went out with two friends last night who don’t do ashtanga, and they were surprised that I was out past 9. Happy moon! They said. I confessed to them that I was thrilled to have the day off from yoga, since I was feeling irritable, and they were surprised. Doesn’t your yoga keep you from getting irritable? 

I told them it doesn’t. It makes me tired; it makes my arms hurt sometimes, so that I can’t type what I am meant to type for my DPhil work that day. It makes me feel worn out, so that I can be less patient. It makes me gain weight, since my body wants more food to sustain the workout schedule that, thanks to my efforts to accommodate a series of other obligations, it is still “getting used to” after four years.

They were a little perplexed. How can yoga do this to you?

I made some joke about having weak arms, and then we changed the subject to whether we were going to have late-night snacks. 

I kept thinking about what I had told them, which was both true and a lie. Yoga does tire me out, it does sometimes make me irritable, and sometimes I feel like just doing it is quite enough to merit my exemption from everything else for at least the rest of the day until I repeat the performance at tomorrow’s Mysore. This attitude is not always the basis for evolved thinking, for taking mature responsibility for my behaviour. Sometimes it is a justification for excessive introversion, or laziness, or an extra slab of cheese on my salad. 

Nevertheless, I never doubt that it has made me a better person and continues to make me a better person, despite the everyday failings that I regularly blame on it. It’s teaching me something better than how to never be irritable – which I think is a goal that I will reach several lifetimes from now. It teaches me how to not care that I am irritable, and hints at what it might feel like to be able to find that irritation irrelevant. It is a deep clean: it rearranges my irritability synapses so that they run on a different track, not overlapping with the synapses I need to be a good person. It’s nerve cleansing, Nadi Shodhana.

Of course, it’s good I didn’t inflict this thought-stream on them. It’s possible they would have found it irritating.


(No) crying in yoga

There’s a pose that I am not getting. I have been working on it for ages, and I am not getting it. I started cheating for a little while. I have a home practice, so it’s not that hard to cheat. The problem with this cheat was that I started to think that it was not a cheat, that I was in fact doing the pose, and was rather pleased to have mastered it after so many months of working on it. When I went back to my regular teacher, after a year away, he ended that happy delusion as soon as he saw me perform my watered-down version.

Then, when he saw me limp through the correct manifestation the next day, he pressed me, correcting mistakes as I tried to do the pose four times, each a little less dignified. I was so frustrated, I cried. Just one tear, or two, not sobs, but I had clearly gone past the point of equanimity. Then I moved on and did the next pose, and finished my practice. Crying was not a disruption.

Still, it was like hitting a wall. Once I noted my over-reaction and sat with it for a little, I realised how much struggle is involved in keeping up this daily practice and advancing into poses that take ages to learn to do, and I wanted to go home and sleep. For a week.

But this morning, off to Mysore practice. At least it’s Friday.