Friday, April 27, 2007

Getting Rid of the Judge

(For the last few months I have been heavy on the Yoga Practice, not so much on the Yoga Thoughts. Let me try and remedy this situation…)

One of the nicest things about a yoga class is unfurling your mat among like-minded students and sharing the experience of losing yourself in an hour or two of yoga. The energy of a group of people doing yoga can be very pleasant and inspiring; the key is the “losing yourself” part. It is very tricky to keep your attention on your own practice and not start to compare yourself to the other students or the teacher. Of course you have to be aware of how the pose is demonstrated and if you need to modify it for yourself, but to do that and not unleash a barrage of “Oh, this pose is too hard for me” or “I hate that I can’t touch my toes” or even “Ha, my balance is better than just about everyone else’s” requires a heavy dose of self-discipline. For Westerners, and Americans especially, physical activity tends to be competitive and removing that competitive spirit from your practice takes a lot of awareness.

If you find yourself falling into the trap of comparison, first ask yourself why you feel it necessary to scold or praise yourself at all. Why not just let the poses happen quietly and without judgment; your awareness should be in the sensations of the body and not the play-by-play critique in your mind. Once you quiet the voices (I call mine my Inner Control Freak), simply observe what the pose is doing for your body—are muscles opening or fighting the action? Can you ease the effort with your breath? What is becoming more energized as you hold the pose? Try to restrict the mind’s observations to “Oh, so this is Half-Moon Pose,” or “I am releasing my chest towards my legs,” without any criticism or commentary. It’s not easy, but I think you will notice that you enjoy your practice more if it just happens naturally, without reproach or applause.

Yoga is a very personal experience and, while it is energizing to practice with others, you have to keep yourself focused on your own body and the work it is doing. If a whole class without commentary seems like too much restriction on your Inner Critic, start with a smaller chunk—say just the standing poses, or even Savasana (Corpse)—so that you can get through that section with simple observations and nothing more. See how it feels to just concentrate on what is happening rather than rating it as good or bad. I suspect that part of the practice will be a lot more calming and opening for you that the section that is judged.

Good luck and Good Riddance! ©Brenda K. Plakans. All Rights Reserved


Nadine Fawell said...

Funny, I am reading a book about the unfolding of witness consciousness, and it echoes so much of what you say here! Apparently profound exhaustion with the way we have been doing things is often a precursor to the change. Seems that's where I am right now.

Brenda Plakans said...

Some of this comes from Mindfulness practice, some from a workshop on Pranayama that I did a few years ago with the Kripalu teacher, Martha Link. My Witness can be something of a bully...

Total Health Yoga - Kris Kramer said...

Just stumbled upon your blog. Thanks for the posts! Your comments about passing judgement are well-said. I find that my personal practice is a saving grace and great time to really focus on "just being". Then it's a bit easier at a workshop or group class :-)