Recently I came across an article titled, “Yoga Teachers We Must Stop Flaunting our Ass-ana”
I read it and I agreed with the overall message that ended with, “Once in a while, let’s show them (students) handstand, crane, bird of paradise, whatever, but we should make sure they understand it is about the journey.”
I agree it is about the journey. However, what if by posting pictures of these “intimidating” postures, we help inspire bigger and grander goals. Or, what if by worrying about others we aren’t staying true to our practice on the mat or worse yet, we perpetuate the idea that it is okay to judge others for posting what they want to post.
I graduated number two in my high school. I remember a parent of a close friend coming up to me and saying, “Sima, I had no idea you were smart.” I didn’t really know what to say. Just because I graduated top of my class didn’t make me any smarter than someone not graduating at all in my mind, but it is a matter of perception. However, what rang true for me was that of course she would have no idea that I was smart. Why? Because I sat at the back of the class with my teenage angst, wearing non-conformist conformist baggy pants and ridiculous things as to not fit in (but fit in with the not-fit ins).
I didn’t raise my hand even though I knew the answers.
“Showing off” can be viewed both ways. As yogis, can we put the judgment aside? If one teacher gets recognized for doing complicated yoga stretches and another is pumped that downward facing dog doesn’t kill their wrists anymore, isn’t it possible we can praise both pictures and be happy for each other on their respective journeys? And I can honestly say that regardless of what pose we are doing, it is the intention behind the pose.
Were you full of breath and present in the moment? If so both circumstances can represent the most advanced form of yoga, just in different ways.
The author from article wrote, “The first step is to get on the mat and to breathe; get the journey started. New students are not going to want to get onto the mat in the first place if they think yoga is about advanced postures—and this is exactly what is happening.”
But how do we as teachers know what a student is thinking? Do we limit what they think they can do by not intimidating them? And some people have been drawn to the practice specifically from seeing the amazing things that yogis can do. Again, we can’t decide for someone else what inspires or intimidates. We can only be true to ourselves.
I remember showing a friend where I was on my strict press journey. I wasn’t quite there and he said, “So what’s your goal?” And I said, “To get up without kicking.” He changed my life in one sentence; “Well, you are going to get up soon, so make your goal bigger. Don’t limit yourself.”
For a moment, I was frustrated. I thought he clearly had no idea how hard this pose is, but after a few days I realized he is right. We limit ourselves, others don’t limit us. Less than a month later, I pressed up. Every day I wake up and dream big and set goals. I don’t want to limit myself in fears of worry that I might intimidate someone or that it would be perceived as “flaunting”.
We all should aim to learn and grow and inspire and perhaps even admire those around us who are crushing their goals. Intimidation is a reactive feeling. The more yoga one does the more you realize that we are responsible for our feelings, whether of pride or inadequacy.
In the article, one student said, “There is a teacher who I really like who does yoga in the park near my house. All of the sudden I started noticing that she was constantly posting all these photos of her in all these crazy poses; it really intimidated me and made me scared to go because I could never do any of that.”
Fear is a choice and as teachers we are responsible for reminding students that facing these “advanced poses” which for some could be sitting still for five minutes are a choice. Let’s not enable fear further by tucking away what we are crushing off our goals. Let’s not limit anyone. Let’s just be, whether we post a picture of us playing a game of UNO or a fancy yoga pose. Take the judgment away. As yogis, shouldn’t we aim for that? Shouldn’t we aim to stop worrying about what others are doing?
Stay on your feed. Stay on your mat.
My feeling is that when my friends post to any social media feed something they have been working on I am going to praise and clap. When my friends at CrossFit ring that PR bell, you bet I am going to stop what I am doing and clap and cheer and high five them. And when I react like this when I have impressed myself. You bet I am going to post it.
Regardless of where you are on your journey, I will squeal with delight over every damn accomplishment you cross off your list.
Vision. Goal. Crush. Repeat.
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Assistant Ed: Judith Andersson / Ed: Bryonie Wise
Photo: Joel Nilsson/Wikimedia