I recently read an article in the Sunday paper on a new so-called epidemic that’s sweeping the city. “Cocaine Yogis”, as they’re called; the city’s band of party bitches, who after a rowdy night of booze and a cocktail of illicit substances make their way to a morning yoga class to help balance their bodies and to restore a sense of retribution.
It’s fact that there is no way in zen yogi hell that a person on zero sleep and a mix of alcohol and stimulants can stand on one leg, salute the morning’s sun, or even contemplate another downward dog first thing in the morning. Not going to happen. Home and bed is where these young things should be.
However this article did get me thinking about the relevance that yoga holds in our crazy, fast-paced lives. Faced with substantial daily stress and tension, more people turn to vices as a means to cope. Alcohol, drugs, sex, over exercise, food and prescription medication, just to name a few. All around the world people are working longer hours, consuming more fast food, and indulging in liver taxing, brain cell depleting, and potentially destructive lifestyles choices. How does a one and a half hour Asana class make a difference in a person’s life? And where does simply practicing yoga transition to become living yoga?
We all have our health “tick boxes”. The ones we tick to feel better about our health and wellbeing. If I eat healthy food, drink lots of water and go to yoga during the week then this Friday night I deserve a bender. I’ve earnt it! I give myself permission to enjoy. I allow myself this space to do what I want. Now I’m definitely no stranger to the “you have to retox to detox” philosophy to living life. I’ve been known to bounce straight back on my mat after some rather heavy nights that are probably best left forgotten. Maybe bounce isn’t quite the best description. More like struggle, pray, groan and grunt before eventually surrendering into child pose then reclining into savasana, ready to call it a day.
As I struggle through my Vinyasa class, I start to feel as if each pose helps undo that extra tequila shot, that round of jaberbombs and the greasy pizza I scoffed down last night. But is it all an illusion, merely a perceived benefit? The truth is that I do feel better. Top the session off with an organic salad and a soy latte (organic and fair trade, of course) and the feeling of hangover-hell slowly deplete. I notice this tick boxes mentality around me as well – I had dinner with a friend last week who after a big bender goes on a watermelon fast for few days, then has a colonic to help further cleanse her system. She’s healthy and feels great without sacrificing an active social life. So it’s all about achieving your perceived level of balance. As an observer, its funny how our minds create anecdotes to justify our actions.
Most people come to yoga for a multitude of reasons: some to shed those extra kilos; some to tone up, stretch and lengthen; and others to relax and calm their over-active minds. What is not initially understood is that yoga is a complete system of personal growth. It’s a practice that allows individuals through their own personal journey to become more aware of their body, mind, and the effect their actions have on their health. Stepping onto your mat is the first step in a journey that can last a lifetime.
It isn’t wrong to attend yoga with a hangover or to use it help negate an unhealthy diet. It’s about bringing the body back to a perceived state of equanimity. People are drawn to yoga because it facilitates a connection to their bodies and helps satisfy a physical and mental need. This is a good thing! When I first began my yoga journey I had very little awareness of my breath, the food I ate, the amount of water I drank, and the affect my thoughts and feeling have in creating my reality.
So good news for you “Cocaine Yogis”; the more yoga you practice, the more devoted you become to yourself and your own happiness. You begin to realize how yoga works for you. You’re happier; the traffic doesn’t bug you as much; you’re eating better, and smiling more. The temptations seem to dissipate from your life and the choices you make flow from an understanding of what’s good for your body. You question what makes you feel good about yourself and the world you live in and how can you make a difference. A teacher once told me how I could make a difference in the world. He said that it can be as simple as smiling at the guy who makes my coffee in the mornings, wishing him well and meaning it.
Eventually we go beyond just practicing yoga and realize that there’s more to life that just coping with it. Swama Rama once said “In every human heart and mind there is a constant battle between knowing the truth and enjoying the world“.
Personally, I don’t believe yoga should slot neatly between your 9-5 and your weekend decadence. I feel yoga should be part and parcel of a person’s life, inviting change and demanding awareness. Yoga is a transformation from the inside-out. It’s expansive and creates space for people to be a little (or a lot) happier with who they are and where they’re at. The longest journey you’ll ever take is from your head to your heart, from intellect to emotion. Yoga allows us the space to standstill our busy minds and to feel more.
Yoga is more than simply moving the body around, but a process of healing and of peeling back the layers and the emotional patterns that bind us. Listen to the inner voice as it guides you on your journey. To experience life from a living yoga perspective takes time, but don’t worry, the process is a simple and powerful one. Smile at yourself in the mirror, laugh when your fall over, accept your limitations and just have fun celebrating the world and what you’ve created. Yoga allows those changes and the celebrations to occur. Make your practice relevant to you and your life. Use it as something that makes you feel good about yourself right now and allow the transformation to unfold.
Originally posted for Elephant Journal http://www.elephantjournal.com/2012/04/you-gotta-retox-to-detox-tanya-maria-mah/