I hear a lot of folks talking about the shadow in the context of yoga. Sometimes I feel the word has become cliche and musty with lost potency and meaning. I am aiming to reclaim the word, its concepts and harness its power because...
if you don't direct it, it will direct you.
With more and more people trying and falling in love with yoga--more and more people seeking what we might call "the Light", the wider the shadow will be cast. All you have to do is look at the quality of Yoga Journal these days. Or how about the fact that we now have a "yoga apparel industry" worth 13.4 billion a year. Or perhaps I should remind you of the horrors of gurus gone gaga. Or how about the other common shadows of misdirected rage and fear where we lie to our spouses or snap at them because we have unmet needs that we fail to recognize and then like to believe they should meet the things we don't even admit to ourselves.
How is it that more people do yoga and yet more people are disenfranchised, feel jaded and eeked out of their local yoga clique? Why does the corporate yoga studio last and the humble homespun cloth goes out of business? How is that one is able to do a 200hour yoga teacher training and suddenly be a health and wellness guru? 200 hours of training and you are certified--in what, down dog? And what is that worth exactly? (actually to be honest I think its worth a lot. But I also think its worth it to know our limitations. Or at least stay awake to the possibility of them. And the thing I think is worth the most is the day in and day out personal practice.)
Need I remind you that it is 2014. We do not use just the pronouns HE and She anymore. It's uncouth and ignorant to gender body parts and covertly exclude those who identify different than you. How about the fact that that this billion dollar industry of ours (yes, ours) is funded by white women with disposable income. White women just like me and you. And that many of us who teach this stuff can't even afford half the shit off the rack. And how about the host of us who speak up and out get slammed as bitches or as unyogic by the spiritual bypassers and samadhi posers.
The "experts" are telling us we can earn more and have a six figure business along with those stunning six pack abs. There are also "experts" who tell us "this way" or "that way" is the only way and the "right way" for alignment based yoga, or any style of yoga for that matter.
There is no "formula" or "method" to learning about, diving into and coming to love one's shadow. By now, you are probably wanting me to tell you what I mean by SHADOW which in the yoga world is "so hot right now". The shadow is any part of ourselves that we push into the unconscious recesses. It is those parts that we either consciously or unconsciously cannot yet tolerate about ourselves (both good and bad) so we very smartly chive them in the basement of our being. Or we try to cut them out or off. Or we see them only in someone else. Or we try to push them way way down inside ourselves. Our we try to ignore them by merging with another person deeply they may never see who we "really" are.
We are smart and fragile creatures, we human beings. We do not like to be ruffled. But see the yogi is the one able to stay cool in the torrent. The yogi is impacted by life but not the one who is whipped by life. All yoga work is shadow work. We wrestle with the parts our our body that don't want to do what we want it to do. We are faced with shapes that impact our ego's. Somewhere along the line we learn that we have to harness the innate power of our body rather than fight against it. Disciplined practice helps us find the balance between going with our nature and nurturing a better pathway.
There is no right way to do shadow work. The only wrong way is to pretend like you are immune to your shadow, don't have one or have it all figured out. We have a little term for that. It's called Peter Pan Syndrome. It's when you don't want to grow up. It's when you don't want to be tethered to anything--let alone something of value.
Yoga teachers, grow up. Not because I say so. Grow up because your life's work depends on your capacity to tether yourself to your own shadow in such a way that the madness and wildness becomes useable.
A few years ago one of my teachers, Melissa Miachaels asked me, amongst other diverse youth leaders "What pisses you off?" I said clear as the crystal air off the rocky mountains: "Spiritual disenfranchisement and the conscious manipulation by spiritual leaders pisses me off".
In that moment I heard the rumbling of truth roll off my tongue like a wave shaking my body to the core. And so my righteous anger was set loose. With skill, with love, with devotion and working towards clear vision I continue to refine this anger into something worth while. If you are a seeker of truth, honesty, trust then the shadow work must be part of your work.
I cannot simply stand by or backbend along and let the billion dollar industry of yoga continue on in madness. Now, of course I by no means think I--one tiny human have that much power. But I do know that the more I bow down with great earnest respect to the shadowy parts of myself and call it out in loving ways when i see it, the better off we all are. Everyone wants to be creative and impassioned. And rarely does that come in a pretty package.