I Repeat: You CAN’T “Be Bad” at Yoga!

Here I am, being "bad" at yoga

Here I am, being “bad” at yoga

I completed the first module of my yoga teacher training today, and while after the first day I felt elated, today I got home feeling a little more tapped out. I wasn’t physically tired per se, but toward the end I was so emotionally drained all my feelings, particularly negative feelings, were amplified.

I went into the program not knowing what to expect – keeping an open mind and just trusting the process without being attached to any particular outcome. So far I haven’t been disappointed. We’ve spent just about an even amount of time on talking through some of the basic philosophical concepts (e.g, self-compassion), practicing teaching and reviewing the poses and their technique, and I’ve enjoyed just about every minute of it.

To be honest, though, some of the insights we’ve been going over I had already found on my own.

Over the years, as I’ve had emotional struggles, I’ve taken to studying psychological and philosophical tools that might help alleviate some of my suffering. During the last couple of years in particular, I’ve been obsessed with the concept of happiness, and in trying to research it I’ve been able to internalize some of the practices that allow us to choose to be happy. And it just so happens that many of those practices come from the Zen Buddhist school of thought that is a strong undercurrent in yoga.

Imperfection, vulnerability, self-love, self-acceptance… I have embraced these things. I haven’t mastered them, of course, but I’ve embraced them.

Today toward the end of our session, we participated in a workshop where other people from outside our program were welcome to join. The workshop was called “Foundations of the Flow,” but the attendees were novice and experienced yogis alike.

By this point in the day, I had been through a pretty intense emotional roller coaster already. More so than yesterday, I really hit a high that had me crashing hard by the time 4 PM came around.

And I was getting ANNOYED.

One of my BIGGEST pet peeves is when people talk being “bad” at yoga, or knowing someone who is “great” at yoga.

One woman was talking about not being able to get into Resting Half Pigeon, and then when asked to demonstrate what she meant, proceeded to get into a Resting Half Pigeon with her bent leg diagonal across the mat rather than parallel. And because she couldn’t do it “right” – couldn’t get it “perfect” – she thought she wasn’t doing it at all.

So let me be perfectly clear about this because I still have the pent up annoyance from having sat through inane comments like that one: you CANNOT be “good” or “bad” at yoga.

You can have looser muscles, more mobility or more strength, which allows you to get into a deeper or more amplified version of a pose, but that is because in order to do what yoga is supposed to do for you – which is loosen your muscles, give you more mobility and increase your strength – you have to take the pose to YOUR next level of challenge.

If you can’t touch your toes during a Forward Fold, you start by placing your hands on your shins or a block, but if you are stretching your hamstrings, you are STILL doing a Forward Fold. Eventually, you will touch your ankles, then your toes, then place your hand flat on the mat, and so on, but you have to continue going to the level of the pose that will further lengthen and stretch your hamstrings.

Conversely, if you show up on your first day of class and already have long and loose hamstrings – because God made you that way – it doesn’t mean you are “GOOD” at yoga! You are still a beginner – an inexperienced yogi – regardless of how flexible your hamstrings are.

From my perspective, the only way to be “bad” at yoga is to show up on your mat time after time and berate yourself for not doing the pose the way you think you’re supposed to in your head.

I realize I shouldn’t judge people for thinking these things, because obviously once they’ve had the benefit of experience they’ll come to realize this on their own… but I needed a good long VENT and unfortunately you guys were my victims!

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3 thoughts on “I Repeat: You CAN’T “Be Bad” at Yoga!

    • Best of luck with your training, Cora-Lynn! I signed up for mine much the same way you did. I went to an open house, and walked out having paid the deposit.

      Despite being a little too easily annoyed at the end, I really enjoyed sharing my days with other yoga dorks – people who get as excited about discussing yoga as I do!

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  1. I’m glad you have the discernment to recognize that there is no “bad” yoga as we are all on a continuum in our practice. Prashant Iyengar says that we don’t do yoga to become quiet, but because we are quiet yoga comes to us. Remember in your training that Asana only encompasses a small part of Yoga’s totality and that mastery in poses is pointless if the Asanas take you away from stilling the citta. Your Gomukhasana arms are great! Try rotating your left shoulder back and taking the top elbow closer to the mid line. You will find your fingers in no time. Until then, use a strap to get the correct actions 🙂

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