Yoga Thoughts on the Power of Recognizing Our Inner Nay-Sayer
Not too long ago, my husband, Jim, stumbled upon one of the toughest lessons that yoga teaches us. The curious thing is that he did it not on a yoga mat but in his running shoes. However, since I’m always looking for yoga in life off the mat, I thought I’d share his story from a yoga perspective!
Jim came home from one of his runs feeling particularly victorious. As he hadn’t gone any further than usual and he’d run the same terrain as usual, I asked him what was different that was making him feel so great. He replied, “I beat the little voice.” My confusion must have been evident on my face, because he went on to explain himself.
He said that many times when he’s chugging up the second hill of his run (which apparently is a whopper), a little voice starts niggling in his mind. It says things like, “This is crazy. You don’t have to do this. There’s no reason you couldn’t quit and go home to breakfast right now.” Or, “You’re not a runner. You’re an attorney. What are you thinking doing something like this? Give it up.” It’s not a nasty voice. It’s actually quite collegial. When it really gets going, it can even sound like it’s on his side in the difficult matter of whether or not to run up the dreaded hill.
But it’s not on his side. It’s not collegial. It’s actually quite insidious and damaging. Jim is right to feel victorious in “beating” it on his run. But his victory is even greater than that.
As Jim has found on his runs, “beating” the little voice is not a one-time deal. The little voice speaks up over and over again. Jim’s greater victory is in having identified the “little voice” as what it is. It’s not him. It’s not his pal. The knowledge that he is separate from this voice strips the little voice of much of the power or influence it has over Jim. Now when the little voice speaks up, Jim is better able to recognize it for what it is. He can label it “the little voice,” and ignore it, running on up the next hill – or doing anything else in life that he’s set his mind to doing.
Since he’s recognized the voice, Jim has realized that it speaks up a lot more often than he would have thought. He’s heard it at work. He’s heard it in his aikido classes. He’s even heard it just before we tackled a larger than usual home-improvement project. Jim’s not unique here. We all have “little voices.” It’s part of being human. They crop up at different times. We hear them in all areas of our life.
What are these little voices? I’m not sure it matters. They could be the voice of doubt. They could be the voice of low self-esteem. They could be the voice of fear – fear of success, fear of doing new things, fear of change. (It could be that we’re all just a little crazy.) One thing seems to be consistent. Our little voices tend to be at their loudest and most insistent when we’re challenging ourselves. If we were to fall prey to these little voices, we’d never grow. We’d never learn new things. We’d never be able to live into our potential.
Our yoga mats are great places to learn to identify these little voices. On my yoga mat, when I was learning sirsasna (headstand), my little voice was quite insistent that there was no need for me to move away from the wall – EVER! While I “beat” my little voice in this case and went ahead to learn to practice headstand on my mat away from the wall (and lived to tell the tale, mind you), the voice is not gone. Far from it.
When I’m in a yoga class and my teacher is leading us through a challenging series, my little voice is quite fond of giving me “permission” to take it easy or even to skip some of the postures. My little voice on my mat is never louder than when I’m approaching postures that require me to balance on my hands. (If you could hear it then — aargh!) (For examples of hand balances, click here and here.) I still haven’t vanquished it there, but I know I will one day. I know it because I really want to learn some of those postures.
I know it because I, too, am realizing that the little voice is not ME. Despite the fact that the little voice feels like it’s part of me (it’s in my head, after all!), I’m separate from it. What IS me is my desire to learn and stretch and grow. Therefore, when I remember that the little voice is not me and I’m not it, I can choose to ignore it whenever I want!
As Jim has found, once we learn to recognize our little voices when we hear them, they lose a great deal of their power over us. Hearing, recognizing and ignoring our little voices over and over again while we practice on our yoga mats makes us better able to recognize them when they speak up off our mats in life – when the stakes are often significantly higher than whether or not we can stand on our hands. Being able to recognize our little voices frees us to grow, learn and change. Freedom from our little voices enables us to stretch into our full potential. (Not to mention, we get that sweet taste of victory when we do overcome our little voices and achieve something we didn’t know we could do!)
Good luck! You can do it!
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