We hear a lot about 'light' and 'illumination' in the asana practice, in the studios and in the community. We don't hear a lot about the shade, the darkness, the shadows and the negative - unless that is, of course, to be told we shouldn't be dwelling on this.
That leads to a pretty quick case of the spiritual bypass for a lot of yogis - you know this one: "I've left all of that behind; sure, I've had trauma in my past, but it's all light and happiness now." Perhaps, but highly doubtful. But, in my opinion, way too prevalent in our community.
Even the myriad translations of 'namaste' often include words that talk about the 'light in me' or 'that which is best and brightest in me' which implies that if we are successful at completing an asana practice then we should be filled with light and brightness and no worries. It just doesn't pan out that way, and in my opinion, casting the practice in this 'light' doesn't really serve the students.
Think about it, for real; as a teacher, you're there to create sacred space and to usher folks into personal transformation and change. That is sticky and messy and tough and emotional. So, you guide students through that, then basically package the whole thing in a ball of light and bid them farewell.
I don't know about y'all, but I've left plenty of classes with serious issues on my mind; with past traumas, current dramas, all of my failing and perceived losses. That gets stirred up in the asana practice, and it should be acknowledged that as we pursue and seek the light, our shadow grows rather than diminishes. Think about it, the brighter the light, the deeper and more distinct and large and exaggerated the shadow gets. And, when we think shade, we think cool... thus, it can be very confrontational, when we looking for bright and warm and fuzzy to get cold and dark and distinct.
But, I would argue, that is the reality of the practice - and this becomes entirely my opinion. Yoga is the linking of seemingly oppositional forces into complementary energies which creates overall greater alchemical and catalytic potential.
It is not the ablution of the ego, not to eradicate or triumph over, but to find right mindfulness and position and service. It is not the dissolution of negative energies or consequences (as we perceive them) but rather harnessing both the cusp and the trough of the wave - the energy is moving at either point, in the ebb and in the flow. It's our role to become accustomed to looking into the shadows, whenever we seek the light.
The shadows, the shades? What do I mean. Easy - your trauma, your sustained drama, your victimhood or survivorship, your abuse, neglect, frustration, diminishment. The acts you've perpetrated on others, the evils you have ignored, the deeds undone, the words spoken in anger, all of those things you'd rather just forget. As if somehow getting on your 'sacred colored rectangle' will somehow erase up to half of your life and experiences.
Nope, friend, as you've figured out, that's not how it works. It works like life - to fill you up with power, life is both sweet and sour (thanks, Bjork). So, you process it, on the mat, in meditation, for as long as you need to. You revisit it, more than you want to, more than you think you can.
You do exactly what it is that you are most afraid of... and you do it in service to self; not to conquer ego, but to serve You. And, you talk about it and process it.
You do the work, because the tests will continue to happen until we learn the lesson. There is one thing or theme that is following you in your life, frustrating you, haunting you, holding you back - own it, understand it, reach into the shadow and bring it to the light. See it for what it is - not what is was. You've already identified what is was, that is not what it is. What it is is what you see when you do this work, today and each other day in the practice.
Take a look there, it's waiting for you, according to Goethe! "There is strong shadow where there is much light!"
Give thanks and praise!