Saturday, November 8, 2014

“I should quit teaching yoga” and Other Crappy Things my Negative Inner Voice Tells Me

“I should quit teaching yoga” 
and Other Crappy Things my Negative Inner Voice Tells Me


I was practicing at the studio. I found a spot near the wall to enable my fear-of-center-of-the-room-handstands behavior. I was tired, feeling un-centered, and needing to practice. Usually when I feel like this, I practice at home. It is easier for me to be present when I am alone in our yoga room. Alas, my daughter wanted to “do yoga” and I had driven her. So- there I was. 

The class started. I felt stiff, still sick from a trip to California, behind in my sleep, and exhausted from catching up on work all week. I was cranky and not having the best morning. My drishti was all over the place. I saw other yogis in handstand (in the middle of the room), side plank (holding their toes, backs long, hips high, chest open, and glorious), and flowing seamlessly from ballet-informed standing splits to magnificent half-moons that shined like the sun at noon. 

I was struggling, hopping pitifully up to wall-enabled handstands, arms shaking in side plank, and working the hell out of dimly lit half-moons. My inner voice said, “Why do you even think you can teach yoga? Look at your poses. You can’t even do a decent handstand. You practically need to fold in half to grab your toe in side plank. And what the heck is going on with those half-moons? No one wants to take yoga from someone who can’t even do yoga.” 

I know. My inner voice can be so mean to me. 

Worse, when my inner voice acts up like this, I see all of these- essentially- faceless people agreeing, “I know. Did you know that she can’t even do a handstand in the middle of the room? Who does she think she is?”

My negative inner voice looks at them, nodding as if thinking, “I know, right?”

Ugh- 

Meanwhile………..

all this is happening in my head……………….

and there is an actual yoga class going on……………..

and I am- in fact- taking it. 

What is really critical here is that my negative inner voice isn’t even correct. Despite this obvious and graphic self-disclosure, I (as my supportive inner voice) am writing to tell myself (and you) three things:
  • Yoga has 8-freakin limbs- not just Asana, Catherine- there are seven other limbs and you are not half bad at those (well- there is Samadhi and that is known to be hard to attain, even for the most-yogi-of-all).  
  • It does not matter how good you are at any of the limbs- it’s your work, practice, intention, and right-effort that matter. Just like you say, over and over in class, “God, your soul, and the universe only care if your try.” 
  • In fact, most people don’t really know or care what poses their teachers can or can’t do. People go to learn from those on the path and to share the journey. People go to be inspired and challenged. People go to see themselves more clearly. In fact, that is what happened in this very class. You learned. Yes, your teacher need not be perfect. They simply need to be on the journey. 
So, NO dear Catherine, you do not need to quit teaching yoga because you are challenged by certain poses. Lord knows you are trying. You practice. You practice a lot. You feel the powerful, integrative effects of moving your body and stilling the mind. You have grown so much since the first day you landed on the mat. And, not that it matters all that much, but you have grown in your asana practice as well. It is about your journey. You are on your journey with your whole heart and that- THAT- is what matters. 

Thank you supportive inner voice!

Sure, I want to be able to do all of the poses. Truth is, I am- most certainly- working on the handstand-in-the-middle-of-the-room along with my attachment to it (which may actually be a more important lesson than the handstand). 

So, NO- negative-inner-voice- I am not quitting teaching. And YES, I am working on ignoring you and giving you increasingly less power in my life. 

Supportive inner voice- I love you and I hope to see you on my mat tomorrow. We should try handstand together. 

Still, no matter who shows up, I’ll be there because it is all part of the journey.


Catherine Cook-Cottone
The Yoga Bag




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