We live in a culture that is constantly telling us what is wrong with us. We need some new products or have to do something differently because we’re not pretty enough, young enough, rich enough, successful enough, or living enough. So many of our choices are made to prove something, either to others or to ourselves.
We obviously must have entered into this world quite deficient! We are so bombarded with concepts and ideas that make this assumption that it has become a deeply imbedded and unquestioned aspect of being human. Something’s wrong with us. Something is missing. So, we must strive to improve, be better, get more.
Even the things that are meant to help us live life, to free us of such conditioning, can themselves become absorbed into this black hole of our imperfection. Take, for example, the practice of yoga asana (asana being the fancy name for physical yoga practice).
Most people head to yoga class for one or more of several reasons: to feel better, to workout, to be happier. The intentions are good. But what thoughts surface while they are there?
“My body doesn’t do that. I must not be flexible enough. I better try harder.”
“My teacher tells me I have to put my feet just so. It hurts, but he must know better than I do.”
“Wow, that person is so graceful and flexible. I want to look like that. I can just barely force myself…into…that…ouch…position.”
“I’ll never be able to get my leg over my head like that. I suck at yoga. I hate this body.”
“The teacher is doing it this way, therefore, I have to torque my body just like that, no matter how much my joints whine.”
“Wow, look at me! I’m doing a wheel. Hurts like hell, but what an acheivement!”
Not exactly the enlightening experience one was hoping for!
There’s nothing wrong with a person who can’t turn out their hips just so, who doesn’t have perfect alignment, who can’t reach their toes without bending their knees, who simply can’t sit like a pretzel. And yet, they try. They try because they think there is something wrong with them. There is something they must attain. Something is missing. Something is wrong and they need to fix it by pushing harder.
Look, the problem is not with you and your body! I promise. There’s nothing wrong with your body…whether it can bend with the best of them or not. It’s just fine. The problem lies in one of two places:
Your Own Head
Your own judgments of yourself may be telling you stories about how you should be able to do something because someone else can or because someone else demonstrates it thus or has told you “the right way”. But if you are honest with yourself, your very own body is telling you what’s true, what’s right. Get out of your head and into that “just fine as it is” body.
Your Yoga Teacher’s Head
As for your instructor, maybe they think you should be able to do something because they simply don’t understand that forcing a body to do something is just plain ignorant. Maybe they are victims of a rigid dogma they’ve been taught, ignoring the intelligence of their own bodies for the sake of a pose. It unfortunately happens.
In the first instance, you simply need to recongnize that how you are built is how you are built. There is nothing wrong with your body. Okay, you might have a back injury or tight hips, whatever. These are things to be worked with, not against. These are things that inform your practice. But there’s nothing wrong with you…nothing that needs fixing. Healing…maybe. Accepting…probably. Fixing…not so much!
And in the second instance, you simply need to realize that no one is a better authority over your own body than you. Teachers are there for a reason. They serve an important purpose, of course. But there will be those who carry their own “not good enough”, “gotta be better” issues. Don’t let them become yours. If a teacher is making you feel “less than” because you’re not complying with their technique, find another teacher. If they are telling you to push through pain and ignore your own body, or offering you unwelcome hands-on adjustments, run as fast as you can.
Movement should be joyful. It should feel good. We should enter movement with trust and the certainty that we will not hurt ourselves. If we believe the lie that there is something wrong with us, if we enter a class thinking we have to measure up to something or hold the belief that we need to push through and beyond the limits of our body, we’re going to get hurt. Maybe not immediately, but eventually.
Why not face the realization here and now that there’s nothing wrong with your body? Why not decide that what you have to work with is perfect, in whatever state it is in? Why not discover with gentleness and intelligence how truly perfect your body actually is?