In the Midst of Women Strong Enough to be Soft

To the woman who asked Swami a question about practicing only Yoga and dropping her other workouts:  I feel for you.  I feel for you, because I know you, even though we have never met.  I tried to make eye contact with you, but I could see that you were not in an emotional place for meeting new people during Friday evening’s Satsang.

Swami went right to the heart and soul of your question, didn’t she?  We all felt your discomfort at her quietly waiting for your answer, which she knew would be an answer to yourself more than to her.  Her questioning you in reply to your inquiry caught you by surprise, and she didn’t leave you any wiggle room in that gathering of women who were more like what you are trying to avoid being than what you are like.  You were in the midst of women strong enough to allow themselves to be soft. Did you feel our sadness?  Did you feel our sympathy?

I felt empathy for you, because I saw an old “me” in you, a “me” who could not let go of control enough to enjoy the ride.  A self who counted, measured, planned and made order of things and was always just one reach away from the sigh of satisfaction that can come only from release and surrender.

I don’t think Swami intended to cast shame upon you; from what I can gather, that is not what Swamis do.  I think she was trying to help you light your path.  She was trying to enlighten you.  She was trying to help you lighten up.  How do I know this?  The question you were asked I have asked myself while peering into the eyes I see when I look into the mirror.   “What is it you really want?”

What gave you the idea that Yoga requires that you give up other forms of exercise?  What gave you the idea that Yoga is a form of exercise? Yoga is not exercise; it is a practice for the benefit mind and soul as well as for body. Keep this:  “You are not your body”.    Swami’s opening words of her talk.

Be wary of the teacher who tells you that their way is the only way.  I have searched for conflicts between Yoga and my faith life, and finding none, I continue with both.

During my walk yesterday morning you came to mind, and your question gave me much to consider.  I started to think about the me who worked out at the gym, (a place where few people smile and say hello, I have noticed), did aerobics until her knees ached, ran until her back declared mutiny, suffered through weight training and cross training and deep water Pilates, swam laps until she thought she could actually sleep in the water; on and on and on, all in pursuit of a perfectly formed body, which would be attached to a perfect self-image, but in reality I was in pursuit of peace and tranquility.  If you find peace and tranquility through your workouts, then continue to enjoy them.  If you do not, then you may want to ask why you are spending so much time doing something you don’t enjoy.

I walk because I love to walk.  I swim laps when the sun is hot and the water is cool and refreshing.  I do both because they are sources of happiness and tranquility, and this old body of mine gets the side benefits of the exertion.   Yoga has helped me reach this place.   And I hope the same for you.



  1. Descartes said,

    June 6, 2010 at 10:22 pm

    I stated practicing Yoga when I was about 12 and have always found it a comfort in a not always comfortable life. I now practice a much more passive form of Yoga than I have in the past, but it is still a good thing.

    What do you want? is always a good starting place. I hope your fellow practitioner listens to the message.

    • June 7, 2010 at 6:09 am

      I have tried a few different types of Yoga. I like Svaroopa Yoga, which is the style I currently practice and have for over 3 years at this point. If I had to make a second choice, it would be Kundalini Yoga. Svaroopa is blissful. There is no other word for it.

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