There is a character in Greek mythology named Sisyphus. You may have heard of him. He was king well known for his deceptive, dishonest, and ignoble manner of ruling his kingdom. When it was time for him to die, he even tricked Thanatos and managed to escape death.
As you might suspect, Zeus and the other Gods were not impressed with Sisyphus and decided to teach him a lesson. He was punished with the unending frustration of pushing a rock up a hill. But the rock was enchanted and would slip and roll back down the hill just before making it to the pinnacle. And so we would have to forever begin again, pushing the rock every damn day.
Like any myth, there are a number of ways to interpret this story. The way I see it, the rock represents your embodied human existence. It is destined to fall no matter how hard you push. Trying to outwit death, illness, and old age is committing your self to the maddening task of trying to accomplish the impossible.
I started seeing this hashtag on social media a few years ago. At first I thought it was kind of cute. It seems to be all about commitment and dedication to your practice.
But the more I saw it the more I began to get a funny feeling every time I read it. I would say it out loud and it did not elicit the spirit of relaxation and enjoyment that I associate with yoga practice.
For starters I have never seen a photo of somebody mindfully cleaning their kitchen with the hashtag #yogaeverdamnday. Searching the hashtag earlier today, I found 2/500 photos of somebody meditating or doing pranayama with that hashtag attached. I saw inspirational quotes, people twerking, people checking their laptops while in pincha mayurasana (forearm balance), some cool variations of postures I had never seen before, a few impressive backbends, a couple waterfalls, a whole bunch of beaches and, of course, SO MANY BIKINIS.
Don’t get me wrong now…I enjoy inversions, backbends, arm balances, and bikinis. But these were all impressive feats of strength and flexibility. There was all kinds of evidence that the subjects of these photos have dedicated themselves to accomplishing very cool looking poses. But then maybe that hashtag should be more like #PerformativeAsanaEveryDamnDay. I suppose that is not as catchy.
Stretching and Balancing
The hashtag brings up an interesting question…one that has been making the rounds a little in the yoga blog world. Is it laudable, inspiring, or advisable to practice hatha yoga every damn day? Judging by my cursory Instagram research, it seems that is what is meant by #yogaeverydamnday. Not meditation every damn day. Not relaxation. Not measured and mindful breathing. Stretching and balancing every damn day.
There is a consensus among all the medieval hatha yoga manuals that yoga should be practiced uninterrupted every day. But these manuals were written by and for renunciates who walked away from their jobs and families to find freedom. In many ways, the renunciate roots of hatha yoga are not really compatible with WEIRD (Western, Educated, Industrial, Rich, Democratic) cultures.
Contemporary WEIRD yogis have jobs and families. We have friends and all kinds of social gatherings and obligations to which we must attend. Our attention is called in many directions. Those of us with children all recognize how much our attention they require.
Our yoga practice may meet resistance in many forms, not all of which should be met with force (hatha) such that we can practice every damn day. Sometimes we need to be more yielding and forgiving with ourselves and others. Injuries need time to heal, children need our love and attention, and the laundry needs to be folded.
Practicing yoga every damn day may actually be building resentment into our encounters with yoga. Just look at the language. We don’t need more “damn days” in our lives. The impression is that practicing yoga is a responsibility. But yoga is not something we should do because we have some kind of contractual obligation to do so. We should do it when we want, how we want, with whom we want, whenever it seems like a good idea.
Obsessive Yoga Disorder
I want to kiss my wife because it feels good, not because #kissingeverydamnday. I enjoy having a beer while I BBQ, but I don’t want to #beereverydamnday. And I want to practice hatha yoga when it feels good, when my body and mind seem to be asking for it, not #everydamnday.
Contemporary yogis who are compulsively practicing hatha yoga postures are like Sisyphus. Pushing our physical practice of these asanas up the hill of our embodied existence, we inevitably find ourselves watching as injuries, aging, or simply the rest of our lives causes our practice to roll back down through all that hard-earned real estate.
So in the spirit of practicing hatha yoga in a way that is not neurotic, compulsive, or otherwise indicative of OBY (Obsessive Yoga Disorder), I humbly propose a number of new hashtags that can replace #yogaeverydamnday: