“I can’t touch my toes.” “I’ve never been able to do Crow pose.” Can’t. Never.
If you’re like me, you’ve tossed these seemingly harmless words around like hot potatoes in any given conversation, not thinking about their impact. But like a sizzling potato, each utterance can start to scald even the most well-intentioned practice…or life experience.
It takes conscious effort to catch myself littering my inner or outer dialogue with the following list of self-sabotaging words, but I continue to work at it.
“I just teach yoga.” I caught myself replying this way recently when asked what I do for a living. That nasty little qualifier – “just”– is a dangerous one. Using it reduced my teaching to something trivial, insignificant. And immediately after saying it, I felt just that.
This incident was a powerful reminder to declare, boldly and with pride, that I teach yoga. Period.
Several well-meaning people in my life spew this word out incessantly. And it typically comes too late – as in, “you should have...” Well, I already did it, didn’t I?
Even in present tense it stings. “You should lift your leg higher. Should practice more often.” More likely than not, the recipient of this finger-pointing dialogue is well aware they ought to make it to class more frequently, but is currently working through a life circumstance that takes priority.
I like using the word “consider” in class. It gives the student encouragement without scolding. Consider coming to class more often to gain health benefits. Consider lifting the leg higher if it’s accessible to you. Feels better already, doesn’t it?
3. Wrong (Or Right)
Anyone who’s worked on a relationship has heard it’s not about who’s right or wrong. This applies to yoga too. Get over worrying about doing a pose wrong. If you’re breathing, focusing, and staying fully present to what’s happening in your body, you’re doing fine.
Same goes for doing it “right.” Obsessing over doing Warrior Two right can imply there’s only one way – the right way – to do it. Truth is, none of us look the same in Warrior Two. Every yogi is unique, bringing to class his/her own genetic code and fascinating biography.
I tore a groin muscle years ago that prevents me from creating a 90-degree angle with my front right leg. Doing so sends shooting daggers up my leg and spine, so I stop just shy of it. And it isn’t wrong. Or right. It’s MY kickass Warrior Two in all its glory!
This one is tough. I catch myself all the time. I see a yogi in class incorporating all my cues and working their breath and focus and out it comes, “perfect!” I’m working to quash this bad habit.
As one of my students shared with me a while back, coming to yoga class allows her to fail, to be imperfect, with no repercussions at all. Our practices grow stronger by falling out of poses, not holding everything together, and letting our emotions out. Perfection has no place on the yoga mat and no one is perfect.
The finality of this word is what scares me the most. Same thing with “never.” Every time we say it, it’s a declaration that whatever it is we aren’t yet able to do is completely out of reach. Truth is, how do we know? It wasn’t until I stopped saying “never” to handstands that I started sticking them. Tell yourself you can, always. And keep practicing until you get it.
About five breaths into Revolved Half Moon pose, a teacher urged the class to “fight” for our pose. Her intention was good, but her choice of words fell flat.
I don’t come to yoga to fight. I come with my little white towel as a surrender flag to allow my body to let go. To go deeper in a pose and allow whatever needs to come up, to come up. Fighting, to me, feels like resistance. And I have enough of that outside the mat that I’m working to let go of.
Cursing is a direct route into frustration, and even anger. Notice what happens to your heart rate, your breath, and your jaw when you inwardly curse. Even if you aren’t cursing aloud, the yogi next to you will surely feel the negative energy. So flip it around and choose love.
How about you? See what words come up for you, and seek out more loving, supportive alternatives to compliment your practice.