I remember the shock I felt when I uttered the words, “I hate yoga.” I had been struggling with my practice for months, but the realization that I had fallen out of love with yoga felt like being kicked in the gut.
Up to that point, I had done my best to remain equanimous about my situation: I observed my discomfort mindfully with as little judgement as possible, trying to surrender with dignity and grace to the moment. The truth, however, was that I was crawling out of my skin and my patience had worn thin.
I watched helplessly as my relationship with yoga unravelled. This sacred practice, which not only changed my life but saved it, became another glaring indictment of what I loser I was. Yoga and I avoided each other. Its once-endearing quirks now annoyed me. We stopped sharing the same bed. We even began talking about divorce.
Around this time I read an article by Judyth Hill. In it she talked about how being stuck can bring with it a sense of safety and we become invested in staying there. At what point do we decide to move out of this predicament? And how do we do it?
She asked her son, an avid climber, what he does when he’s clinging to a rock face with seemingly nowhere to go. As a climber, I’ve found that scaling walls and practicing yoga are remarkably similar on an internal level, so it stands to reason that the way out immobility in one can lend itself to the other.
When I’m stuck on a tough route, it’s amazing how easily I convince myself that I’m hanging out there because I want to enjoy the beautiful view, but eventually I can’t deny the fact that I need to move on. Breathtaking vista aside, I realize that the only way out is through, so I have to take a leap of faith.
Hill offered up a roadmap to moving through the sticky, uncomfortable morass, breaking it down into four steps:
Shift: Climbing is all about finding balance. So is yoga. Sometimes the shift is literal, such as bringing my weight forward onto my upper arms so that my feet can float off the floor in Bakasana. But just as likely the required shift is in my perspective. What are the small ways I can quiet my discursive chatter so that my practice can unfold, unfettered by self-recriminations?
Reach: I’ll never get to the top of a rock face if I don’t act on that leap of faith and continue upwards, staying rooted to my breath and my body. Likewise, by remaining open and curious in my yoga practice, I allow myself to fully occupy each moment on the mat.
Is being stuck merely a way for me to feel safe? As uncomfortable as inertia feels, it’s predictable, so there’s no risk involved. Can I allow myself the time and space to explore my practice with childlike curiosity, to try new things? Can I set aside my notions of what a ‘good” yogini is, cut myself some slack, and enjoy my practice?
Commit: In climbing I often hear my partner telling me to commit to a move, to act on my intention. To what extent am I allowing fear, fatigue, aching muscles, or frustration to prevent me from getting onto the mat? If yoga transformed my life as much as I say it has, is my continued commitment to it reflected in my efforts? Am I actually getting up off my asana?
Trust: “Trust your feet” is also something I hear frequently when climbing. Can I trust myself – and the practice of yoga itself – to guide me, even if I end up falling on my face while attempting Bakasana? How much is my ego holding me back? Can I let it go and just relax, knowing that I don’t need to feel embarrassed about not being perfect?
I’ve been giving myself gentle reminders since then, both on and off the mat, to apply the sage wisdom offered up by this young man. I’ve found the Shift-Reach-Commit-Trust mantra helpful in a host of ways – in my meditation practice, my approach to my career, my sometimes thorny family relations – and it’s proving to be a wonderful way to see my way through the muck.
I can’t say that I’m entirely out of feeling stuck, but I’m on my way. Nor can I say that I’m madly in love with yoga the way I was when I first began practicing. And I think that’s a good thing, because no relationship can maintain the flush of new love forever. It’s exhausting and unsustainable. In order for a relationship to deepen and mature, it needs to move past infatuation and ground itself in a balanced, realistic way. Divorce yoga? Nah, not a chance.
Bio: Elizabeth Ewanchuk feels privileged to support clients as they create rich, vibrant, balanced lives for themselves. Plus, she gets to wear yoga gear and go barefooted all day. It doesn’t get any better than this.
While Bakasana continues to challenge her, she’s at peace with repeatedly falling on her face (though some folks wonder why the bridge of her nose is always bruised).
When not bending and stretching folks, Elizabeth can be found curled up with a good book and a cat, toodling around town on her orange scooter, Lola, or indulging her love of heights as a climbing enthusiast.