This morning my co-worker sent me a link to an article entitled Why Yoga Can Be So Irritating (Although You Should Go Anyway!), by Sarah Miller. She writes:
There will be Yoga Overachievers. You will be doing Cat-Cow at a normal pace, and they will be bucking and heaving like mechanical bulls. You will be expending an amount of effort somewhere in between “challenging yourself” and “able to retain sufficient muscle strength to remove shampoo bottle from shower caddy.” They will be straining, grunting, grimacing. When the pose is over, they will often emit some hideous but presumably cathartic howl. I always want to say to those people, “The auditions for the high-school production of The Trojan Women are in the Lotus Room today,” but I don’t think I need to tell you that your basic yoga overachiever does not have the greatest sense of humor. Then, when class is over, and everyone does that weird little bow, the Yoga Overachiever will bow down for, roughly, an hour. Seriously. You will have already taken your own little I’m-so-spiritual-and-humble-before-the Creator bow, put on your flip-flops (good job!), hightailed it away from the would-be hugger/soul blenders, made and consumed a meal, masturbated to some violent pornography and be just about to crawl into bed with the fall Anthropologie catalog, and they remain on the floor in the yoga studio, thanking God for making them, well, them. As these people have a tendency toward spraying you with saliva and noxious BO (see next item) you should give them a wide berth, and don’t attend any functions at their homes, because, for reasons with which the universe has not yet supplied me, they’re almost always horrible cooks.
While being brutally honest and completely hilarious, this observation got me thinking about how the existential concept of authenticity fits into yoga practice. Very generally speaking, authenticity can be understood as the extent to which you can maintain your “true” self — that is the self that exists prior to, or in the absence of the material world. This is difficult to imagine because has there ever been a moment when you were not surrounded by the material world? Probably not. And so this becomes a kind of metaphysical imagining, conceiving of a self that is autonomous without ever itching to be reactionary. Yes, I know, hard to imagine. However, this process, of imagining oneself outside of the self, of reflection, is a huge part of yoga practice.
With this in mind, it is not who you hug after class, or how mightily you press your fingertips into your mat during down dog that imbibes you, the practitioner, with personal insight. Similarly, it is of no consequence what others are doing during class. Those annoying yogis are part of the material world of which the authentic self exists independent of.
Think about all the time lost when you allow yourself to become affected by the actions of others. In yoga class the annoyances are part of the challenge, they create a “real-life” scenario and that is why they call it yoga practice. You practice putting up with the irritating hypocrisy that exists in any space where other beings are present. As you continue to practice the intensity of these types of people, chive crotch or the Yoda-impersonators, lessens. The threshold for your tolerance grows.
I do believe however, that this article is exemplary as part of the process of getting to know your authentic self. By acknowledging what distracts you — what causes tension to bubble up inside you — you can more easily prepare and deal with these situations when they arise unexpectedly. Because the unexpected, my dear friends, that is life.
Have you ever meditated on what bothers you? Has it been helpful? Leave a comment and let me know.