I have a love / hate relationship with yoga. Most of the time, I can’t get enough of it. Yoga makes me feel fit, flexible, and balanced.
But there are also days when I resist yoga, because of a side effect that is not often talked about. It is what I believe to be the most powerful benefit of the practice – the excavation of repressed emotion, negative energy, and limiting beliefs that become lodged in our minds and bodies.
This past weekend, two of my yogini friends and and I hosted a weekend yoga workshop here in London with teachers John Friend and Desi Springer, the co-founders of a new school of hatha yoga called, “Sridaiva”, which means, “Divine Destiny”. Sridaiva is based upon John and Desi’s revolutionary new views of optimal posture and physical alignment. John and Desi teach Sridaiva alignment through a sequence of postures called “The Roots” – a set of poses designed to “tune the mind-body”.
This was my third Roots workshop and the most powerful yet to date. Whereas the previous workshops affected me physically, I could really feel during this workshop that John and Desi’s Sridaiva alignments cracked me open both emotionally and energetically.
As the weekend progressed, a lot of psychological resistance surfaced in my mind. My body was open and receptive, but the little voice in my head wanted to shut it all down and hide in a corner. It didn’t want to change. It didn’t want to face itself. It didn’t want to feel painful feelings. But I took the resistance as a sign that something powerful was about to happen. I knew that if could muster the courage to stick with the practice, that there would be an opportunity for a grand transformation.
On the day before the workshop, we took John and Desi to a butterfly conservatory where we watched beautiful butterflies hatch from their chrysalises. As the butterflies hatched, they strained and struggled to free themselves from their old reality. It didn’t look easy to break free from the dark little chamber that had held them captive for so long. But something beautiful happened when the struggle was over. After the butterfly emerged from the chrysalis, it would lie in complete stillness with wings outstretched, drying its wings and familiarizing itself with its newly transformed body.
This is how I felt after the workshop – like a newborn butterfly. Indeed there was a struggle, which included familiarizing myself with radical new ways of aligning my body and engaging muscles that have rarely been used. Most of my struggle arose the day after the workshop, when painful emotions from 30 years ago floated to the surface of my awareness like cream on milk.
But the long-term benefits of Sridaiva yoga are worth the short-term struggles. I don’t want the headaches, backaches, and body pains that arise from misalignment of my spine. I don’t want to carry around repressed emotion in my precious cells. I don’t want to let the fear of my mind overrule the wisdom of my heart.
After driving John and Desi to the airport early on Monday morning, I returned home to discover that I had forgotten to put the trash on the curb for garbage day. As I lugged the heavy bags down the driveway, I thought to myself, “this is what we’re carrying around in our bodies when we don’t allow ourselves to process our emotions!”
The time has come for all of us to take out the trash. It’s time to realize that the turmoil in our world is a direct manifestation of our inner turmoil. We can create peace in the world but only by creating peace within ourselves. It’s an inside job.
I will continue to study with and support John and Desi, because I believe firmly in the importance of what they are doing in the world. They are creating the space in our minds and bodies to allow for an inner transformation. They are putting us in touch with our higher selves.
I realize that there is still a lot of opposition to John teaching due to the Anusara scandal of 2012, but in my heart I know that John Friend is a good man. His dharma is yoga, and he has so much wisdom to offer the yoga community. Although some students may experience resistance from their peers if they decide to explore Sridaiva, my advice would be to follow your own heart. Be strong, be brave, and don’t let the inner chaos of another person corrupt your own intuition.
A note about Desi – she is one of the most graceful and eloquent yoga teachers I have ever had the pleasure of studying with. She is a strong woman, inside and out, who overflows with compassion, humor, and authenticity. Do not miss the opportunity to study with her, either on tour with John or at Vital Yoga in Denver, Colorado.
I wish John and Desi well on the rest of their Sridaiva tour. May they feel blessed, loved, and protected, and may their teachings spread like wildfire, so that we can all feel the bliss of uniting with our Divine Destiny.