The Goddess Transition project began with me trying to force myself to be more healthy. If you are a human who can communicate with other humans you have probably been introduced to the “cure all” that is yoga. There is the ongoing joke that whenever someone is complaining about literally anything an annoyingly optimistic listener will ask, “have you tried yoga?”. Not. Helping.
But I am an open minded problem solver, so yes I have tried yoga. I have tried yoga over and over and over again. I have tried yoga for my mental health, my never ending crafter back pain, for my aging body that LOVES food (aka cookies). I have found that, yes, yoga helps all these issues. It does not SOLVE anything, but it does help.
Do you know what it doesn’t help with? The whole getting me to actually do-the-yoga part. Convincing myself to be healthy and take care of myself is a monumental effort. They did NOT teach us to prioritize our mental and physical health in Catholic School. Quite the opposite really, but that is a whole other story.
Which brings me to the disgusting word “Discipline”. Bleck. Just the thought of the word “Discipline” makes me want to tell someone to go fuck themselves. Whenever you read a memoir or interview or advice from a successful artist, writer, athlete, literally WHATEVER, this oddly aggressive word usually finds itself in there. It’s annoying because I am looking for inspirational guiding wisdom. Instead my gut reaction is always along the lines of, “NO YOU GO DISCIPLINE! THATS RIGHT YOU GO DIS YOUR FUCKING PLINE! YOU DON’T KNOW ME! YOU CAN’T TELL ME WHAT TO DO!”. It’s not very productive.
For me, the word “discipline” means forcing yourself to do something you don’t want to. Like taxes. Or homework. Tasks that someone else is giving you no choice to complete under a deadline because they think it is important. My whole person; brain, personality, physical reaction, responds BADLY to that. Saying procrastination results from that expectation is an understatement.
The more I researched the practice of yoga the more I realized that the, “you have no choice,” idea is the opposite of what yoga is. (I have mainly been listening to this one awesome audio book The Yoga Sutras by Nicolai Bachman that explains the science and religion behind the practice in the most soothing digestible way. But get the audio book from the library because it is $$$.)
There is no, “DROP AND GIVE ME 20 AND RUN UNTIL YOU VOMIT OR ELSE”, in yoga. The yoga version would be communicated in a calm soothing tone that suggests, “Planks have many positive effects on the body, make sure to do this position to your comfort level, listen to your body, and don’t forget to breathe. Always be mindful of the breath. Focusing on it’s life giving, cleansing force.”
Ya. Discipline is not going to work for me or for yoga.
Let’s talk about healthy habits. Specifically what is a samskara. I am just going to copy and paste someone smarter than me explaining this, because to say I am NOT a yogi is a vast understatement.
“The word samskara comes from the Sanskrit sam (complete or joined together) and kara (action, cause, or doing). In addition to being generalized patterns, samskaras are individual impressions, ideas, or actions; taken together, our samskaras make up our conditioning. Repeating samskaras reinforces them, creating a groove that is difficult to resist. Samskaras can be positive—imagine the selfless acts of Mother Theresa. They can also be negative, as in the self-lacerating mental patterns that underlie low self-esteem and self-destructive relationships. The negative samskaras are what hinder our positive evolution.”
I love the way Nicolai talks about samskaras in his book. The way he describes it makes me think of garden furrows. The more you repeat a behavior the deeper you dig that furrow, whether it is bad or good. Then when you want to change or replace it, the deeper the furrow is, the harder it is to change. A lot of negative samskaras are caused by deep emotional scars. That is why it is the only word I can remember from the 3/4 of his book that I have listened to. “skaras” sounds like “scars” to me.
Yoga is definitely about repetition, but not through force. Through compassion and understanding. Creating new healthy furrows is hard. It takes energy and focus. When I start to do yoga the first 15min (at least) is full of my inner negative dialog, “why am I doing this, this is stupid and boring, I could be doing something else useful, I hate this, so useless”. I would try and fight this voice, but I still could not create a consistent practice by myself. Despite how good I felt post-yoga.
By learning more about yoga, I learned there was nothing wrong with my negative loop. Almost everyone has their own version. Yoga isn’t about fighting it but trying to replace that negative loop with something healthier. I thought the negative dialog was a distraction preventing me from doing yoga but it is actually the reason TO DO yoga.
It definitely hasn’t made anything easier knowing this. But it has changed my perspective on my goals. Before I would force myself to do an hour of yoga every 3 months (when my back pain got too unbearable) and beat myself up for not doing it more often. Now I don’t think of yoga as a physical activity. The positive physical results are a lovely side effect. One of Nicolai’s examples was that a gymnast could do a perfect asana flow, hit every position and have perfect form, but that doesn’t mean she is actually good at practicing yoga. It is so much more than just the physical movements.
Now I am trying to be gentle with myself and do 15 minutes of yoga every other day. It is about the breath and slowly changing my state of mind by trying to create new furrows. Hopefully that will lead me to fostering a more sustainable healthy mind and body? Let’s see how it goes ;).