Does the yoga actually work?

There are times that I think my yoga practice might be a cover up. It reduces my anxiety, it gets me calm, it makes me feel better immediately – but long term? I’m still carrying around a lot of the same shit I did before I started yoga.

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Is this actually helping me grow as a person?

Occasionally I think that the work I’m doing is suppressing, rather than diminishing, my negative emotions. Because this is how it works: I’ll be calm for many days, and nothing will get to me too much, and little things that will irk me I will set aside and “let go” – only to blow up about it a few days later, after apparently it’s been building up under the pressure of my outward need to be calm.

Clearly, this is not the intention of yoga. Am I doing it wrong? Are the techniques I use helping me to avoid my problems and put them in that little pressure cooker, or are they helping me to actually let go – I’m just not that good at it yet?

I think it’s hard for me, as a recovering perfectionist, to let go. I’m trying, guys, I really am. I swear I try to not get upset when Keith doesn’t do the dishes or finish the bathroom project he started five months ago. I try to see it from his perspective and when I do, I understand – logically – but that doesn’t take away my anxiety that it’s not yet done. That there’s something unfinished and I need it to be done and I need it to be done now.

It reminds me of that old country song, “I’m in a hurry to get things done, oh I, rush and rush until life’s no fun.” I am definitely in a hurry to get things done. Keith lets the dishes linger in the sink and get all crusty, but when he does, he does them well. I do them immediately, and they “get washed” but they’re not always very clean. Same thing with folding laundry. Keith will wait until all of the laundry is washed and leave the clean laundry sitting in a basket on the kitchen table (sometimes for a week, because the laundry isn’t all done at once) – but when he folds the laundry, it’s impeccable. I fold the laundry right after it gets out of the dryer, but I do a shitty job, and I don’t care.

Which is funny, because you think as a perfectionist, I would be impeccable with my housekeeping. But it’s quite the opposite. I’m a perfectionist about things being finished.

And while Keith is pretty good at letting go of my crappy dishwashing techniques and bad laundry folding, I only appear to be good at letting go – I really just let it build and simmer until it all comes bursting out of me at once.

That doesn’t seem like such a healthy response, yes?

So – how does this change? Two years ago I had this realization – that anything I wanted done, I needed to do myself. And that helped, a lot. But I realize that I need some interdependence. I need to be able to actually let go – because Keith is going to do shit that drives me crazy. For the rest of my life. And I can either choose to let it drive me crazy or choose to let it go.

I remember getting pissed off once in a meditation class, because it seemed like a coverup. I was upset that day, and I thought that imagining all of my problems were drifting away on the ocean was the biggest load of bullshit I’ve ever heard. It seemed like avoidance.

There must be another way – a way in which there’s no avoidance of your problems – that you get into them and deal with your shit, so you actually learn to let go rather than just imagining it away. Where is this? What am I missing?

I guess my answer to this question is: yes, the yoga works. It calms you down, immediately. It makes you reflective and introspective. Without the yoga, I wouldn’t even be realizing this in the first place. However, I do feel like I’m missing a piece of long-term sustainability. How can I take the immediate benefits of yoga and make them into long-term benefits? How do I let go, not just superficially, but deeply?
These are my reflections this week as I get deeper into my month of meditation. Also, I purchased a book on anger by Thich Naht Hanh, so there’s that.

Here’s to actual peace for all of us, to dealing with our shit, to stopping the cover ups and starting the healing process.

About the Author

Posted by

Amie is a human. She teaches yoga and writes and writes about yoga. She is not perfect, and she embraces her imperfections and writes about them here: www.amyisahuman.com.

6 Comments

Great post, Amy! I think if we use our yoga and meditation practice purely to relax and take care of ourselves, its a good thing – very useful and it feels great, but the benefits tend to be limited/temporary and may not follow us far from our mats/cushions. I think there are two important elements that most of us either don’t understand early on or we only touch the surface of: 1. being with difficulty non-judgmentally again and again, and 2. intentionally cultivating compassion for self and others. I think these have to be at least as much of the daily practice as the asana and single pointed concentration meditation that we do in most public yoga classes. We have to practice these deeper skills formally on the mat/cushion and in our daily lives. Many people stop short of this because its uncomfortable and they don’t have adequate guidance to help them get through the obstacles. Having an experienced spiritual teacher to help guide you makes a big difference. Keep writing Amy – I love your insights!

Tracy, thank you! I do practice both of those, but not regularly. Although it appears I should be doing that! Do you have any meditation recommendations other than the metta meditation or resources for cultivating compassion and sitting with discomfort? Thanks for your input – this is very helpful.

Here is a brief working with difficulty meditation http://marc.ucla.edu/mpeg/04_Meditation_for_Working_with_Difficulties.mp3 – basically you can bring to mind any sort of difficult situation from your life during meditation and notice the thoughts, emotions, body sensations and urges to action that arise, watching how they unfold over time. You can also notice the thoughts, emotions, and urges to action that arise when you experience physical discomfort or feelings of aversion during sitting meditation or yoga practice.

You might try this Tonglen (giving and receiving) meditation with Pema Chodron https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QwqlurCvXuM for cultivating compassion. It can be helpful to use this practice in daily life when you encounter someone else’s suffering or if you find yourself feeling angry with someone.

I talk about this very thing with people all the time. We gather up all this baggage with us in our lives and there are times when we try and sit down and figure out what we are willing and able to get rid of and what needs more time with us. Sounds like you’ve held on to some stuff because you have more lessons to learn, but let go of others because it was time. Remember, with people slow is fast.

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[…] I’ve spoken before about how my perfectionism is more, “Get it done and get it done as soon as possible, even if it’s not perfect,” and in school I was always that annoying girl who had her essay completed three weeks before it was due, and then the professor decides to change the assignment so I had to go and rewrite it. This is how I approach everything else, too. […]

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