A letter to the SHY advanced practitioner
In the past, when I practiced yoga around others in a class, I had a tendency to draw back and play it cool on my mat to avoid the “looks” or attention. I hate drawing attention to myself believe it or not, but I like to really challenge myself at home alone, and take more advanced variations of poses. I breathe louder, I move at my OWN pace which tends to be much slower and more controlled. I don’t always move through my home practice the way a flow or hatha class does. I take breaks to reconnect with my breathing, I hold poses for a substantial amount of time, and sometimes I don’t even balance things out on both sides of my body. One side is more flexible or stronger than the other, so to me, evening out both sides doesn’t always feel right…even though that’s the way I’ve been trained or taught in the past. People will have their opinions on what is correct and what is best for the body, but I know what feels right to me, and that shit doesn’t always compute.
Very recently, I’ve stopped holding back in my practice in public. And I am writing this post because it’s important and I think others with an established practice should consider it if they are holding back in classes. I’ve talked with countless yoga teachers and advanced practitioners who say they do the same, so I know you are out there reading this!
Here is why I am writing this:
I went to an all-levels vinyasa class the other evening with the intention of getting rid of some of this emotional baggage I’ve been carrying. I had a lot I needed to slough off, so I knew I was in desperate need of a challenging flow. About a quarter of the way through the class, I realized that this wasn’t the flow to really achieve that…So I decided to step it up…I did a forearm balance while we were holding dolphin. I popped up, with focus and rigor, then slowly lowered back down to my dolphin. (NAILED IT) But in that time, I could also feel eyes burning my skin and the heavy judgement-filled air…I could hear the words even though they were never spoken…”Show off”.
This ruined the night for me. I am a yoga teacher and should know better than to let others’ energy deflate and belittle my own, I let it get the best of me in my fragile state and I crumbled internally. I felt ashamed and guilty.
This should not happen. It needs to stop.
Here’s my two cents….since I’ve been going hard and stepping up when I’m a student in classes, I’ve had split seconds where my ego arrives and I notice the glares from other students and heads shaking…and yeah, my mind goes here: “Stop showing off”, “They hate you for this”, “They won’t come to your class”, “Stop trying to prove yourself! No one cares and it’s distracting to others!”
Guys and gals…f*ck a BUNCH of this. I am no longer going to “keep it chill” on my mat unless that’s what I need…which if you know me, I love the challenge so that isn’t happening…I am claiming my own now, and saying this to you if you feel these same thoughts…DO YOU!!! How else are you going to excel and advance in your own practice if you tailor yours to fit others around you?! Leave your ego at the door and let others throw negative energy all they want…it’s not important and it should bounce right off of you. It’s not worth a split second of your time. If they have a problem with your level of skill, let that be theirs, NOT YOURS.
So do that damn handstand from downward dog to forward fold…fall and laugh…face plant from side-crow (I’ve done this twice while demonstrating the pose and it gets a laugh every time)…do that arm balance even if it’s a small millisecond presence in your brain…step your sh*t up, if that’s who you are. Be true to yourself and f*ck all the rest…and I don’t care if you are offended by the swearing…I am passionate about this and showing it through my words.
If you think that keeping it chill in class makes you humble, and it keeps you “safe” from the judgement of others by hiding your abilities, you are so wrong. Because in that crowd or group of students, there are a few individuals on the flip side who will look to you for guidance and be not only impressed, but inspired by you. People will think their thoughts and pass judgement. We all do it, and some way more than others.
Stop caring. Seriously.
Focus on you and building your ability…tunnel vision that sh*t. Because in the end, when all is said and done, it’s just you…only you. Ask yourself how you want to approach whatever in life you are crazy passionate about, and go hard. This isn’t just about yoga. This is life, and this topic is relevant across all mediums.
Don’t hold back. Ever.