I was teaching a yoga class recently and noticed that a new student was having some difficultly in Downward Facing Dog. I approached her and asked her to ease out of the pose so I could place blocks under her hands, thereby easing the pull on her hamstrings. This was a simple adjustment which brought her a great deal of comfort and confidence in her practice. Before giving this adjustment, I could tell that she was worried that she wasn’t doing the practice “correctly” and that she was feeling as though she had to already be able to do a pose perfectly in order to practice yoga. It was a treat, as a teacher, to inform her that this isn’t the case at all. I explained that we simply begin just as we are and, gradually, allow the body to unfold in a peaceful manner. I let her know that over time, if she practices consistently, she will begin to notice differences in her body and its ability to enter and exit poses. I also pointed out that this is not really the most important thing. There’s something more at play here.
I explained that she should look closely at her mind’s reaction to her body in the pose as it is now. Why do we tend to feel that we should be something more or better than what we are right now, in this very moment? What is it inside that causes us to feel as though we don’t measure up? Couldn’t we practice being just fine with things as they are? What’s this rush to “greatness” about anyway? This is not to say that we shouldn’t strive to accomplish goals and enhance our lives in meaningful ways. But there’s a big difference between that and simply beating one’s self up because we feel we’re not good enough as we already are. Acceptance of one’s present condition or state is, in fact, essential for a peaceful evolution or moving on to the next condition or state-of-being. This is learning to love yourself no matter what condition you find yourself in. We are always just as we should be. For instance, even if we’re angry we’re just as we should be in that particular moment. As my teacher, Liz, explained to me once, the anger isn’t really the problem. The real issue is what we do with the anger when it arises. We have a choice. We can either step away from the emotion and learn the lesson that’s right there with us in the moment, or we can wrap the emotion around our minds and allow it to squeeze tight while we beat our selves up for being angry. In each moment, there is something to be learned; a subtle lesson that’s right there with us. We just have to be open to it and learn to see it. So, in this sense, there are no mistakes in regards to our condition at any given time.
When these feelings of inadequacy arise (and they do in all of us), whether it’s on the mat or elsewhere, try stopping right then and there, and ask yourself, “What’s wrong with things as they are?” “What can I learn from this right now?” “Can I be kind enough to my own body and mind to see the lesson that’s in this moment?” Simply stopping for a moment and asking these questions will allow you to make peace with just how you are. We can begin to move forward and continue to evolve but we do so in a peaceful way, not out of feeling that we are not good enough just as we are.