When Yoga Stops Working
I know a lot of people, including yours truly, who have been practicing yoga for a very long time now. We have felt the profound effects of asana practice, and have discovered the life-changing freedom much of the yoga philosophy can bring. And then we begin to realize something disturbing and scary: at some point, yoga stops working.
We arrive at what I call "The Gate". At The Gate, all of a sudden the yoga asana don't have the same deep clearing effect that they used to have. We find much less comfort in the teachings, and nothing seems to shake a pervading sense of anxiety. This is a space where our addictions often become heightened as we work to avoid what must eventually come. We may turn to substances, or sex, or relationships, or drama, or technology, or even asana practice to keep us out of the discomfort of realizing that yoga has actually done its job. Yoga has stripped away our mental BS to leave us exposed and naked, ready to do the really necessary work to free ourselves. The beauty of yoga is that it keeps shining light on all of our hiding spaces, until out of desire or need we stand in the light, take a deep breath, and go through The Gate.
And as you can imagine, this is not an easy place to wind up. When we truly confront ourselves, when we shine light on all the dark spaces, it is a very jarring experience. When we can no longer hide, when the truth seeks and then finds us, then we are forced to look at all the things we had hoped we could simply sweep under the rug. This is the really uncomfortable stuff, the repressed emotions, thoughts, feelings, tendencies, and habits that we fear will overwhelm us, all the places where we think "if they only knew this about me they'd run away." Ironically, this is the space that makes us tender and beautiful. This is the space where we find tender intimacy, humanity, and trust. This is the space where we begin to chill out and allow other people in and realize there was nothing so bad there after all.
Remember that after Dante Alighieri entered Hell, he made his way up to Paradise. After the Buddha confronted Mara, he achieved enlightenment. This is the human journey, that in big or small ways we find our way out of profound suffering into the peace that is our true nature. The Gate, while it takes us through a very tough time of realization, opens the way to a deep and more lasting sense of peace. We realize that, like the ocean, no matter how stormy the waves may be on the surface, the base of what we are is still and peaceful. In fact, it is always there, only waiting to be discovered. As we burn away the layers of our own self-created mental prisons, what is unveiled is the true unconditional freedom that is the nature of our beings.
The Gate is a scary and beautiful place at which to arrive. If you feel you are there, seek support. I know for my own journey through this space I needed some very wise and experienced mentors and teachers to guide me including a qualified, licensed, and experienced therapist. I cannot recommend that highly enough. We are never alone my friends; we are all walking the same path together and guided by something so vast and powerful that we cannot go wrong. The Gate, as uncomfortable as it is, is truly the gate to freedom. It is the way out. Let yoga stop working for a while, because that is the time when it is working most powerfully. We begin to break the cycle of using our practice to hide and begin to use our practice for support. We discover, that no matter what, at the base of what we are, we are free, perfect, safe, and the definition of unconditional love.