Sunday, April 03, 2011

Mano-a-mano (?) with the Inner Critic

Do we all agree (sort of) that yoga is working with your body rather than against it? At least in this day and age (I'm not sure you can call keeping your arm raised for a couple of years working with, but maybe that's just me). Are we trying to make peace with our bodies and quiet the monkey-mind, or are we trying to discipline the soft tissue?

Erica had a nice post about not de-toxing last week, and it got me to thinking about the physical and mental gymnastics we run ourselves through in the pursuit of a yogic ideal. I'll bet most regular practitioners have some awareness (or perhaps Keen Awareness) of the constant juggling act between pushing yourself and not letting ego take over, but what about our students who aren't so tuned into these subtleties (or when you see yourself loosing the ego battle--"if only I could drop-back into a back bend!")?

Let me start by saying I'm constantly juggling (arm wrestling) the Inner Critic in yoga and almost everything I get it. But I'm always a little lost when I see students struggle with the need to do a pose perfectly or, sometimes, even do the pose at all. I try to frame up my class with lots of modifications and opt-outs for people who don't feel up to a pose or aren't ready. I usually let them at least set-up for a pose, even if I'm pretty sure they won't be able to complete it, and then quietly show them what comes next or make a suggestion for something else to try.

The class is all skill-levels and all levels of experience, so asana-ability is all over the place. Which, for me, is fine. It's a opportunity for the long-time yogis to refine and the newbies to try something new or work on being okay with a modification (usually the far-more difficult skill). But what about the regulars who don't have the flexibility or strength for a particular pose, yet attempt--with great effort--to do said pose every time it comes up in the sequence, even if they've been guided to modify or substitute the last time around?

Is this just my teacher-ego getting annoyed that I'm not being listened to? Should I back off and let them try---they've signed a liability waiver, after all? I don't want to scold, but I don't want to stand idly by if some one could hurt him/herself (or the person on the next mat).

What do you do--either to calm the over-doer or, even, to get yourself out of striver-mode? Is this something you can teach or is it knowledge that has to be acquired on your own?

I'm ready for some imparted wisdom...