Spirituality as the new drug: spiritual bypassing in yoga.

Our society's mission to feel permanently good is fascinating in its progression. It seems we have evolved from using drugs and alcohol for their conscience-altering effects and instead turn to the likes of meditation, dietary restriction and yoga, to name but a few. There is no doubt that the latter 'drugs' are certainly preferable when it comes to your physiological wellbeing, but when we mistreat and misinterpret these practices then we find ourselves stuck in the same old patterns.

As someone who was using food and the abusive cycle of bingeing and purging as my personal drug when I found yoga, I was ready to fall straight into the arms of something else that could take me out of my feelings. Trouble is, yoga is intended to take you into your feelings. I resisted that in my practice for the longest time, but enjoyed the new agency it gave me over my body, and family and friends would comment on how it had really sorted me out, given my stabilised weight and newfound confidence. However, all of that was external. On the inside, even more so, I was wracked by insecurity with the now additional pressures of upholding this 'new me'.

This was a form of bypass for me. Spiritual bypassing can often be so subtle that we barely realise we are doing it. How I like to think of it, is as a focus on arriving, rather than simply being. An avoidance of things you don't like about yourself in the hopes that they will go away, rather than an acceptance of them and, subsequently, an invitation to change and grow. I actually think a practice like Yin yoga is really useful in opening up a space for acceptance as opposed to avoidance. For many it can be too difficult, I have seen people walk out of a Yin class before, probably because it renders bypassing impossible.

I was a 'walker outer' a few times in my practice, whether physically or metaphorically. What a deepened yoga practice asks of you, is to simply stay and be present. How are you feeling right now? And now? Right now, for example, I'm feeling pretty lazy as I type this on my day off from teaching, having not yet showered or dressed, but I am able to sit and be with this laziness, because it is temporary, and even if it went on for weeks, even months on end, it would still be ok, because it doesn't define me. Does it make me feel a bit shit? Absolutely. But nowadays I will take staring my horrible, ugly demons right in the face, rather than turning my back to them and allowing them to mount up.

Next time you find yourself in a yoga class, feeling insignificant because your physical practice might not match up to that of the lululemon lady on the mat next door, turn your attention inwards, that is the real yoga right there.