Sharing My Struggle is a new series here on the blog in which I share something (yoga related or otherwise) that I struggle with on my journey. My hope in sharing this with you is that maybe you relate to an issue I have and feel less alone, maybe even learn to articulate your feelings with others. Remembering that yoga literally translates to unity, this is a space to find connections and allow ourselves to be vulnerable with our fellow beings.
First, a struggle I’ve had throughout my time on this path, feeling totally disconnected from the rest of the world. Like I said, yoga means unity. So why did yoga make me feel alone for so long (and still does)?
Like most modern yogis, I discovered the physical side of yoga first, the postures or asana. For a year and some, asana was good enough for me. But as I’m sure most of you yogis have discovered, asana alone leaves you hungry. I think Rebecca Pacheco described it best in her book, Do Your Om Thing. She compares having only the physical aspects of yoga to going to Italy, seeing the sights, but only eating PB&J sandwiches the whole trip.
So, hungry for more, I began to take my deep dive. And let me tell you, my “deep dive” wasn’t a graceful dive you see at the Olympics. It was a hard, fast, shocking drop. It knocked the breath out of me and left me with a sore ass. (And to be honest, I don’t think I’m even half way down.)
The timing was nothing short of perfect (sarcasm). I was a sophomore in college. I pretty much only ever thought about whatever boy I was dating, the boys I wasn’t dating, what I was going to wear to stupid costume parties, how many carbs I had eaten that day, and sometimes computer science. All I ever did was go to class, gossip, veg out on a gross futon with whatever boy I was dating, and binge drink 3x per week. Typing this now makes me feel gross but I was a normal college kid, this is how I connected with people, and it worked.
When my yoga practice became a practice and not an impressive ab workout, all of this changed. I wanted to give and receive selfless love, gossiping made my skin physically itch, school became more uninspiring by the day, drinking alcohol made me feel guilty and disrespectful. I talked to God, I talked to my body, I found the things I needed and the things I didn’t, and all of the sudden, I was weird, everyone else was normal, and I was completely alone. Even when I was around my best friends or in the arms of my first love, I felt like I was on a different planet. It was heartbreaking to finally see my true self but seemingly lose everyone in the process. It was one of my teachers, Rachel Wright, who described the idea of yoga island, a magical place where you get to feel like yourself as long as you’re ready to feel isolated from the rest of the world and frustrated that they’re not joining you.
Everything in the universe felt so small compared to what I’d discovered. School seemed trivial. 98% of conversations bored me and small talk felt literally impossible. I didn’t enjoy my favorite shows and movies. I couldn’t stand some of what used to be my favorite music. Concepts like money, technical innovation, corporate jobs, politics, 401K’s, and society’s idea of success became difficult for me to grasp. Not just difficult to grasp, they made my heart sink to my stomach. I was working 9-5 in the city over at a job that worshiped money and ego, commuting over an hour each way in stand still traffic. Every day I sat in my car, crying my eyes out as I watched the cars around me. Single passengers, in business attire, exhausted and impatient, angry at the human beings around them, trying to get home just to be in the exact same spot tomorrow. And for what? Money they won’t want to spend? A false sense of security and control? What could I do? I couldn’t reach them all. I couldn’t take them all to yoga island with me. Needless to say, feeling this way about the people I was around and modern ideas left me feeling disconnected from the world. And even though I preferred yoga island over corporate America, nothing’s as fun without people to share it with.
All of this is written in past tense but to be honest this is still how I feel much of the time. I wish this was a blog post with all of the answers but it’s not. I’m far from enlightened and I’m not sure I’ll ever figure this out. But here’s what has helped.
Telling people how I felt. 9 times out of 10, probably like 9.99 times out 10, when you feel like no one understands what you’re going through, you’re wrong. So maybe the people in my life hadn’t experienced the exact same situation, but verbalizing my feelings helped me better understand myself and allowed people in. This made me feel more connected because maybe they didn’t understand everything but at least we were talking.
Finding a yoga community. I never thought I’d be one to get emotionally involved with a yoga studio. Being a college kid who teaches yoga, paying for it felt unnecessary. But I’m not paying for the yoga; I’m paying for the people. I’m paying for a room full of individuals who think yoga is worth it, who are seeking something larger than life itself. Ever since I’ve found home at this studio, I haven’t felt alone.
Limiting content that makes me feel disconnected. I don’t want to drop modern, Western life and pretend it doesn’t exist. That would obviously lead to more isolation. But I have found it helpful to limit these things where I can. I’ve limited the violence I consume through movies and TV because I already receive more than I can handle from real life. I avoid music that romanticizes wealth, violence, drugs, binge drinking, and gluttonous sexual behavior.
Replacing my frustration (let’s be real, it’s judgment) with TRUE LOVE. I still don’t have this one down. But changing my mindset has made the biggest difference here. For every time I feel frustrated or confused with the way life seems to be or how others live, I replace that feeling with love. True, deep love for the way things are not how they could be. I am truly in love with the fact that every human being is different. We all have different ticks, different pet peeves, different things that makes us happy and fill our cup. At the end of the day, I just have to remember how blessed I am to experience life and share it with so many others.
Thanks for reading and being here. You’re never alone.