11 May 2015


The Dark Side of Yoga, Path to being enlightened, 30 day challenge, yoga girl, bliss yoga cayman, prairie yogi, Rachelle Taylor, Pantel Photography,
words by Rachelle Taylor // image by Monique Pantel
Many of us were lured to the practice of yoga enticed by the promise that this ancient tradition builds strength, flexibility, and peace of mind. Committing to your practice, you believe it will help you become graceful, toned, and enlightenedAnd while the intention may be harmless, the path of yogic enlightenment isn't that simple... To find the light, you're going to have to delve into the dark.

I completed my first thirty day challenge six years ago in Grand Cayman. The first half of the challenge went just as I had anticipated: I felt more power, strength, and flexibility in my body during class, followed by that wonderful post-practice 'yoga high' of positive energy and grace flowing through every cell of my body. 

Around day twenty, things started to change. On my mat, I started to discover resistance, stiffness, and vulnerability.  In pigeon, my hips refused to soften and my jaw would clench up tight. After three rounds of full wheel pose, I came onto my back with tears pouring out from my eyes. What was happening? There were no circumstances in my life or body that had changed... And that post-practice bliss was replaced with anger, agitation, and feeling crusty in body and mind.

I asked my teacher why I was feeling this way, as these sensations were unfamiliar to me through my years of practice. She explained that, as we begin to open deeper into the muscles, as you do when committing to a daily practice, we start to encounter repressed emotions of the past. Negative thoughts, feelings, and situations that weren't acknowledged or dealt with get absorbed into the muscles. And as the days, months, or years pass, those feeling harden into tension and stiffness of the body.

Below the skin's surface, there are layers of this emotional resistance, some fresh and some deeply rooted. At the start of your practice, that "yoga high" you feel comes from the releasing of emotions, the most recently repressed, creating space for positive energy to flow. But as your practice deepens, you travel deeper into the muscles and further below the surface, where resistance has developed from years of hanging onto hate, anger, or sadness that was never fully expressed or acknowledged. This is where we encounter the crusty, the tense, and the downright ugly emotional baggage that you've been holding onto for longer than you know. And in your practice you're going to have to face the dark, head on, before you can release and move on towards the light. 

That's the beauty of this practice: it acknowledges both the dark and the light within. The word namaste, that your teacher says to close the practice is about just that, seeing the dark + light within us all and honouring them both. 


The Dark Side of Yoga, Path to being enlightened, 30 day challenge, yoga girl, bliss yoga cayman, prairie yogi, Rachelle Taylor, Pantel Photography,
Rachelle Taylor is a love warrior born and raised in the heart of Canada. This gypsy searched far and wide for inspiration, beauty, and bliss only to return home to Winnipeg where she co-founded Prairie Yogi Inc + Prairie Love Festival as expressions of her love for creativity, yoga, and community. 


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