Using Yoga FOR You, Not AGAINST You (Warning: Non-Yogic Behavior Below)

Jan 17, 2020

The companion to my daily morning contemplation and journaling is...a big, strong cup of coffee with...get ready...a generous helping of half-and-half.

I'm grinning as I say this because I used to think I should hide this habit of drinking coffee from my students, I would feel it wasn't yogic or that I wasn't acting in integrity.

I remember once on a retreat one of my students came up to me at breakfast and accusingly said, "YOU drink coffee?" As if I should be ashamed of myself for such egregious non-yogic behavior.

For a while, I admit I played into it. I felt ashamed for treating my nervous system and digestion this way.

Truth be told, when I do a 3-week cleanse once or twice a year, I DO forego coffee in favor of the strongest green tea I can find.

And I always go back. My Kapha constitution responds well to it. I've stopped apologizing for it.

Recently, I read in an interview with the New York Times that Deepak Chopra himself drinks up to 5 cups of coffee per day if that makes any of us feel better.

In Chapter One of "Evolving Your Yoga", I write about the changing roles of yoga in our lives, the various seasons of our practice, and the idea that yoga practice is there for us to use in a way that works for us.

The same goes for incorporating a yogic approach to our behaviors off the mat.

All too often, we make the mythic "yoga lifestyle" into yet another source of "shoulds" in our life, even embarrassment and shame.

Enough, I say!

When I called out this cultural tendency in a recent retreat, I felt the teachers in the room take a collective exhalation. What a relief to know we can and should make yoga (practice AND understanding) serve us.

Now, I'm not saying we should give a green light for all our indulgences. Discipline IS important. Discipline, discrimination, not giving in to the whims of our ego and our attachments is the ongoing, daily work of living yoga for sure. But it's also important to watch that discipline and cultivating healthy habits doesn't turn into punishment. Or worse, shame. Aren't these too habitual reactions that keep us small?

The truth is, the REAL yoga lifestyle comes from the inner experience of yoga, of our truest nature, of the deepest longings of the Heart. From touching this place of inner sweetness and love, we will naturally WANT to take care of our bodies, we will WANT to treat ourselves, others, nature, and the planet with respect. This includes not judging ourselves or others for food choices or behaviors that we deem to be out of alignment with our own understandings of what it means to live yoga.

Sure, our habits and choices require examination and discrimination, but I think we can do this minus the shame for that's simply another limiting tendency we need to let go of on the road to true freedom and empowerment.

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