Yoga Is Not Life; Life Is Not Yoga

The title of this post may surprise those of you who know how much I love my Bikram Yoga practice, and how it has changed my life.  And it’s not like I haven’t written just a bit about that.

Yoga-Equals-LifeBut lately, I’ve had a few thoughts about how much yoga is not like life, and how it’s important to recognize the differences…so of course I had to share.

The big one, at least to me, is that in life, unlike yoga, getting each step right is not as important as getting to the finish line.  The Bikram Yoga dialogue emphasizes, in many postures, that as long as you get to a certain point (your head on your knee, even with a bent leg, for example), “you’re getting the full benefits of the posture”.  Life’s not like that.  I can only imagine saying in the workplace “but I was trying the right way!”

Which leads to my second point…time.  In yoga, unlike life, you have all the time in the world to keep trying.  I’ve been practicing Bikram for nine years, and no-one gives me a hard time about the fact that I often still fall over in the balancing series, or that I can’t get both legs off the floor in Locust.  Well, I give me a hard time, but no-one else does.  At least to my face.  The fact is, the underlying philosophy that trying is as important as succeeding is a very sweet idea, but it really doesn’t hold up in day-to-day life.

And it’s important to note, in light of the preceding points, that in life, unlike yoga, you cannot always stop and take a break if you get overwhelmed.  Imagine taking a knee during a family argument, or stopping during a tense meeting for savasana.  As lovely a thought as that might be, you usually just have to get over yourself and get on with it.  Though maybe that’s a place where yoga should be more like life?  I’ll have to think about that.

Finally, for now, at least, in yoga, unlike life, it’s okay to let your emotions well up and spill over.  In fact, the openness that allows that to happen is valued.  But most of us know that free flow of all emotions in our daily lives would cause more friction than freedom, and would probably be downright embarrassing.

But take heart, all of you who believe that your practice is a metaphor for your life…even I agree there is one thing that for me is exactly the same in both…the need for “English bulldog determination and Bengal tiger strength”.


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