Yoga Fairies: They’re Real!

If you would like an Urban Dictionary-type definition: “yoga fairies: (noun, pl.) Mythical invisible creatures who are capable of either helping or hindering a yoga practitioner in a very difficult pose by, say, holding them up in handstand, lifting them up from backbends, giving an extra push in twists; or, alternately: causing them to misplace their own hands, forget poses, or their shoes at the shala. They also sometimes randomly move centers of gravity around, or cause spontaneous weight gain in lifts and balances. They are notoriously unpredictable.”

All of my Ashtanga teachers over the years have referred to “yoga fairies” this way. The moment is usually accompanied by surprise (either the good or the bad kind) on the practitioner’s part—suddenly managing a bind you’ve been dutifully plugging away at for years, feeling an uncanny and totally unfamiliar burst of strength or lightness (or both). Or, in their darker form, you have felt their influence when you have this experience: “What happened? I was able to do that yesterday and every day prior to that for the last two years!”

Yoga fairies.

The first time I heard the phrase directed at me was from Shayna Liebbe, who said it from across the room when I was suddenly and unaccountably able to do the bakasana transition after bhuja pindasana. The look on my face must’ve been something like, “What the…?” “Yoga fairies!” was her explanation.

What I’ve always liked about them is their essential Irishness, their deeply Celtic quality. In that tradition, they’re

Tinkerbell, via Clap at your own risk.
Tinkerbell, via Clap at your own risk.

called the Sidhe, and they exist between worlds. They are neither good nor bad. They have their own reasons for doing what they do, and they don’t care what you think about them.

Also, they are not accountable for their actions. They are amoral. This is your basic yoga fairy quality. You can’t really chew them out for suddenly making it impossible to stand up from backbend. Just like you can’t really praise them for suddenly making it possible again.

You can deny them, make fun of them, and even realize they’re a myth, a figment of your teacher’s imagination. They don’t care.

Like the Sidhe, however—and this is a big however—disbelieve at your peril. Here’s why:

Recent studies have suggested that the placebo effect—the percentage of subjects in an experiment that have positive effects, even though they’ve been taking sugar pills in the control group—works even if you know it’s a sugar pill.

In other words, knowing that there is such a thing as the placebo effect is enough to make the placebo effect work. You know it’s a sugar pill. But there’s a placebo effect, right? So it still works.

Same with yoga fairies. Of course there’s no such thing. But they’re still the reason you can suddenly come down in karadavasana.

Or can’t come back up.

Posted by Bobbie


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Two Ashtangis write about their practice and their teachers.

One thought on “Yoga Fairies: They’re Real!”

  1. It all makes perfect sense now….this I can relate to! I wonder if they enjoy practice too, along side us? Their shenanigans are not just about poking holes in the ego. It is much trickier than that for them. I imagine some of them have humongous egos and enjoy flaunting them 🙂

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