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  • Writer's picturenatalie lembeck

Ambivalence in Yoga

Up until last week, I thought the word ambivalent meant uncaring or uninterested. As I’ve been studying for the GRE, this word has come up many times. In my learning, and unlearning, and re-learning, I came to find that ambivalence actually means having mixed feelings or emotions about something.

This past year has been really, really hard for the yoga industry and anyone trying to make a living teaching yoga. This past year has also highlighted the many levels of the underbelly of yoga as a profession. In particular, this year has enlightened me to the lack of diverse representation, discrimination and racism, the misogyny, the transphobia, and the fat-phobia that is prevalent in this profession, and even in the community. I have seen from the inside how something so sacred can still be susceptible to disturbing and even horrifying realities.

I certainly do not think it’s only been in the last year that yoga has been subject to cultural appropriation, discrimination, and many forms of oppression. I also don’t think that this is the first year that anyone started talking about it. So, what about the last year has been so different? For me, I’ve had much more time to pay attention. Folks in the community, directly and indirectly, called me into the role of the listener. For a long time, I’ve been a student. More recently, I became a teacher. Last year and today, I am a listener. As a result of this new role I have assumed, I have become ambivalent about yoga, in its modern sense or adaptation, if you will. In listening and witnessing, I have felt anger, disappointment, frustration, inspiration, confusion, surprise, intrigue, sadness, empowerment, gratitude... and the list goes on.

In my relationship with yoga, my relationships with folks in this community, and my relationship with the practice, I’ve learned how absolutely nuanced relationships are. I’ve begun to accept myself when I feel angry. I’ve continued to show up in the relationships even when, especially when, I’ve felt confused or frustrated. I’ve honored the moments that I’ve felt inspired and grateful. Importantly, I’ve learned how my relationships with yoga, broadly speaking, have impacted all of my relationships with family, friends, coworkers, and myself. I’ve learned that ambivalence is absolutely alright. It’s natural, it’s true. It’s definitely not something that needs a remedy.

At this point, I want to draw a few more conclusions:

1.) the essence of Yoga is not what is being represented in the modern world. Yoga is Union: with the Divine and with one another.

2.) it’s ok if you feel ambivalent about Yoga (like, what it really is). That doesn’t change the truth of what Yoga is. The truth of Yoga is Satya. It doesn’t waiver regardless of what our relationship with it is.

3.) I’m so very thankful for my teachers. All of you. Thank you to the folks that called me in to be a listener. Thank you to the folks that kept me accountable in this practice. Thank you to the folks that let me be exactly where I was. And to the folks that kept me there because there was plenty for me to learn. And to the folks that invited me onward.

I’m still here. I’m still ambivalent. I still love you.

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