Whenever there are a handful of new (to yoga) people in my class, I like to remind everyone that the goal of a yoga class is not to look like synchronized swimmers. What we are aiming for is to practice yoga like the Pointer Sisters dressed; wearing the same fabric, but in a style that suits and affirms their unique body. Everyone needs to find their own best way of doing the pose. As the instructor, I will be there to help guide and encourage them all how to explore the pose, but in the end it’s up to each person to figure that out for themselves. I am not the boss of them.
I think that for some people – myself included – that is a real challenge on a yoga mat. We want the instructor to like us, we want to do it “right”, we want to be good at yoga. I see people struggling so much to do a pose, resisting any modification (putting arms down, a knee down, etc.) and basically fighting against and disregarding their own body, just so they can do the pose “right”. When I see this I remind everyone “we care about you, not the pose”. Listen to your body. Don’t make me (or the pose) be the boss of you.
Despite believing that I am an independent and self-aware woman, I also have grown very used to being told what to do, when, and how. I don’t always trust my instincts or like my body. So, the notion of deciding my own limits; pushing myself or pulling back, based on my own self-awareness, can feel like a real challenge. The very basic task of taking responsibility for my own yoga practice gets complicated by my ego. I doubt myself and compare myself to all others around me. I judge and critique my physical health & strength. I struggle between feeling like a loser, not wanting to “show off”, and wanting everyone to notice me. How the heck do I know what my body needs in the midst of all that trash talk!? It’s a mess up in my head. Don’t put me in charge of thinking for myself.
And off the mat – oof. That’s complicated too. Again with the ego. Advocating for myself — taking responsibility for my well-being and my life would require things from me that push some sensitive buttons. I would have to go to bed earlier or sleep in later, and challenge that nagging feeling that I am not doing enough; that I am not enough. Advocating for my family and my part in it might require me to say “no” more often and set off that alarm in me that doesn’t want to miss out on any opportunity; fearing rejecting, fearing failure. I could go on and on and I think you get my drift. It’s complicated. I have a hunch I’m not the only one.
How do we cultivate our own voice – our own inner guide – and actually listen to it? How can we advocate for ourselves and our lives if we don’t know what we want or really need?
The next Daily Bread Yoga retreat is Saturday, April 11th, 9a.m.-noon, Philo Presbyterian Church. We’re going to work on it. The title of the retreat is “Becoming Pro-Voice; On & Off the Mat”. I’m not leading this retreat because I have it all figured out, mind you. I am working on it, just like you. So, let’s work on it together, eh? Let me know that you are coming and how many friends you are bringing with you!
Peace on your head,