Snuck between the barefoot slaps in studio hallways and crouched beside the shedding rental mats, looped through the ashy whispers of forbidden pre-class conversation is a sneaky goblin of narcissistic posturing.
What we say about our practice says more about our intentions than our product. And what we intend has been hijacked by this pandemic goblin, revealing a dearth of genuine yoga-ing.
If your yoga-speak sounds like this, your practice is no longer your own:
“I’ve been doing yoga for two weeks and now I can finally do one-legged-hovercraft-splits.”
How quickly you mastered your headstand/crow/non-existent-circus-poses does not define your worth as a human nor a yogi. If you started practicing because you’d really like to eventually touch your toes for fun, that’s one thing. If you continually push yourself to figure out how engaging your muscles will help you move around in space in new ways, that’s another thing. But racing to get upside-down the fastest is not a thing. I’ve been doing yoga for twenty years and there are poses, transitions and adjustments I haven’t figured out yet. It’s part of what keeps me coming back.
“I sweat so much in that class I had to wash my lulus four times. It was such a hard class.”
Your sweat-to-difficulty ratio is not always aligned. These are separate concepts that occasionally crash together in a slippery epiphany. Sometimes making your body move makes you sweat. Sometimes a practice space is just hot. When I taught heated classes I had students who thought every droplet that fell to the floor was another calorie burned. They would ask me to turn the heat up and up until every face was red and every smell was a gym sock on fire. This is not how to succeed in difficult things. You have to do the difficult work first, not place obstacles in the way of ordinary work.
“OMG, you have to have a Turbo-Pro Spider-Sense Self-Cleaning Mat. Otherwise you’re not really living.”
I have a Jade mat. I have a lululemon mat. I have a Gaiam mat. I usually use rental mats because I don’t like carrying a bunch of stuff around all day. For a year I did yoga in my apartment on the floor with no mat at all. I haven’t gotten any weird diseases or broken any bones because of any of these choices. Which mat is the best mat? The one you use the most.
“I’m so mad I missed class yesterday because I wanted to go every day this week.”
Why? Did your body want to move that much? Because that is the only acceptable answer. Otherwise your brain is forcing your body to adhere to some notion of what legitimate yoga looks like. The outward expression of what your yoga looks like has to start with inwardly how it feels to do it. Does your body want to move around again? Start there. How many classes you took this week should reflect that. Nothing is worse than getting to class and realizing all you really wanted was a nap.
“I just love back-to-back classes. I took two yesterday and I’m going for three today.”
No. Just, no. The case against back-to-back classes looks like this: If you worked hard enough to satisfy your body’s movement cravings, you wouldn’t want another class. I say this because I’ve done it. The back-to-backs, the double workouts, the million classes a week. And then I moved to Boston and I slept for a week straight because I had spent a year moving my body more than it wanted to move.
When we lose sight of what the physical body wants to do, our practice is no longer our own. It belongs to that sneaky goblin hidden in plain sight of your mat. Listen for it in the studio, splashed between drops of sweat and tucked into folds of spandex. Drag it out by its preening ego. And shut it up.