Show Up. Expect Nothing. ~ Janna Leyde

Via elephant journal
on Sep 23, 2012
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Minding Expectations So We Don’t Mind

More often than not, my yoga practice and my dad’s brain injury are teaching me the same lesson.

2011 was expectations.

I had been reading a lot about living with a brain injury survivor, what to expect and what not to expect. But it was my yoga practice that introduced me to the idea that maybe what my mother and I needed to do was let go of our expectations about his recovery.

I couldn’t do it. I’d solidified myself in his non-recovery. My dad forgets birthdays. My dad gets in trouble. He says inappropriate things. He doesn’t do the things that we ask him to do. He can be mean. Sometimes he throws things…like milkshakes. For 15 years these expectations had kept me safe, in control, on top of my sh*t, unbreakable.

2011 was Teacher Training.

Being the seasoned yogi that I considered myself to be, I had this four week Intensive TT in the bag. I knew I wanted to be a teacher, knew my strengths, knew my weaknesses. I knew exactly what to expect—yoga, morning, noon, and night, a soul-deep cleanse that will ring you out like a dirty dishrag.

Then, somewhere in the middle of week two, I fell out of Ardha Chandrasana. It happened just as I was thinking: I always rock the sh*t out of these Flow 3 classes. And I don’t fall in yoga. Sure, I teeter, wobble. I slip. I stumble. But I don’t fall. The next day was worse—I tweaked my lower back in Crescent Lunge, and a cramp in my left foot ruined every standing pose.

“What the hell is happening?” I asked my teacher. “I don’t even recognize my own practice anymore.”

“Nothing is happening,” she said. “Your expectations are just getting in the way. You need to let them go.”

“Huh?” I said.

Yeah, right, is what I was thinking.

“Tomorrow, roll out your mat and be okay with anything that happens. You may fall. You may sail. But, no matter what, you will have practiced yoga.”

The next day I fell out of Vashistasana. I nailed Titibasana. And uncontrollable tears rolled down my face when I received a deep assist in Double Pigeon. I didn’t know how to release my expectations, but I thought if I could leave class without having assigned one adjective—awful, exhilarating, cleansing, clearing or difficult—to it, I could return to my next class with a blank slate. This became my practice—show up, with a blank slate.

I’ve since taken this practice off my mat, into my life, into dealing with that brain injury that my mother and I have to live with. I choose to be the person that expects little of him, not because I don’t care, but because I really do care. I simply choose to show up for whatever my father has to offer.

And when he and I have the chance to practice yoga together, we bring that attitude, that expectation-less existence, to our mats, and lately, he has been surprising me with his increasing awareness and his growing compassion. And I have no doubt that I’ve been surprising him, too, as I no longer expect him to remember all the ways he needs to act so that we may think he has less of a brain injury.

After all, our expectations are unnecessary pressures that we put on ourselves, and those around us. They put in place stagnant standards. How are we ever going to rise unless we let go of them—on and off the mat?


I’m a yoga teacher in Brooklyn. I am currently working on publishing my first novel and also creating a place where yoga and brain injury professionally meet. Concerning the latter, I am certain that a yoga practice will not only help survivors of traumatic brain injury, but also their families. As I practice with my father (a brain injury survivor) my family and I are learning that yoga not only helps his mobility, but also his mind.



Editor: Edith Lazenby

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10 Responses to “Show Up. Expect Nothing. ~ Janna Leyde”

  1. Sweet. Touching. Beautiful. True! It's amazing what happens when we get our expectations out of our own way.

  2. Thank you for writing this. I have been practicing yoga for 42 years and yoga has seriously helped me recover from many traumas and accidents. I have a Moderate BI and can attest to the difference yoga has made in my life. I doubt I would be functioning at half the level I am now.
    There are so many people in our world walking around with undiagnosed brain injuries that make their families crazy. Our church just sponsored a bike ride fundraiser for the Iowa Brain injury Association to help people get proper help and support.. The St. John's Classic will be held yearly to aid people to adjust their expectations for themselves and their loved ones.

  3. neverlikedcake says:

    Thank you so much, Katrina!

  4. neverlikedcake says:

    Hi Nora, Thanks for sharing, as I truly believe that yoga is a great practice, complement, activity for everyone, and that 100% includes brain injury survivors. I think it's wonderful what your church is doing, not just fundraising but getting to the root of things: expectations about recovery. Or rather non-expectations.

  5. Jude says:

    Hi Janna,

    I recently began Power Yoga Flow classes about six weeks ago, having never done yoga before in my life. I have fallen twice already, which makes me laugh because I sound like a cow bring dropped from a helicopter.
    Your mom's calm and strength dealing first with my late manic-depressive, fun-but-exhausting-drama-queen sister, then with your dad's brain injury has always inspired my admiration. Reading your work shows me you have some of that same strength, and I wish you success with your book — and your practice letting go. It's the hardest lesson anyone can learn, though I don't think I will ever master it. Thanks for sharing your journey.

  6. I have to admit I'm not a yoga person, but I was directed to your blog post through a friend's facebook posting. I absolutely agree that letting go of expectations is the first step to happiness and, yes, to love. I try not to "expect" myself or anyone else in my life to act a certain way. I'm trying to simply accept who they are, what their political leanings may be, or simply that they may be depressed that day and it's not my job to fix their depression.
    Great post.

  7. neverlikedcake says:

    Hi Jude,

    Falling in yoga is one of the best places to fall – seriously! It's always more scary than it is silly. Thank you so much for your kind words. I can only hope I am getting to that place of strength. Letting go has always been a challenge, but when we accept the challenge, I find we (I) learn so much. enjoy the practice – keep falling!

  8. neverlikedcake says:


    It's truly so hard not to have expectations. I get it. I am always trying to shed them myself, but I think that being aware of how we have the ability to let them go is really where it's at. And it's a day by day thing. I have learned so much from my mother and she is, as you call yourself, 'not a yoga person,' at least not on the mat 🙂

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