Photo Credit: Dragon Kite by duff_sf
Recently, I found myself in a position where I needed to make a choice that I knew was the right one for myself but would disappoint somebody else.
You would think these situations, when they arise, would be straightforward and simple. After all, if someone asks something of you that you don't really want to do, you simply say no and move on with your day. But I have to wonder if it actually works that way for anyone in real life? I find it hard to imagine that others may not struggle as much as I do sometimes simply to say "no thank you".
Speaking for myself, I really am a people-pleaser. Since I do have that sort of personality, it's much, much easier for me to say YES than it is for me to say no. But problems arise when I don't pay very careful attention to balancing this, and then end up giving way more of myself than is healthy, and getting way less than is appropriate in return. This leads to sticky situations and uncomfortable relationships that only increase imbalance in my life.
But how do you balance it?
The most important thing to do is be aware that your tendency is to say "yes" much quicker than you say "no". By being aware of this, you can implement strategies that make it easier to honour yourself. For example, when you are faced with a situation that you're not 100% sure of, give yourself some breathing room to really think about it. If after doing that, you feel like you'd rather not do whatever it is you are being asked to do, then give yourself permission to say "No thank you".
I know, easier said than done, right?
At it's root I think a lot of my people-pleaser tendencies, and my discomfort with saying no comes back to my own sense of self-worth - something I'm always working on. But I've learned that when I establish and hold healthy boundaries, not only do I feel better about myself but I find that what I choose to bring inside that boundary is more authentic and meaningful. When I say yes to everything, my "yes" loses it's value. But when I say yes carefully and thoughtfully and say no when it is appropriate, my relationships and all areas of my life are healthier and I am happier.
I bet you're wondering what any of this has to do with Yoga?
It's in Yoga that I've learned why balance is so important. I didn't learn this from standing on one leg in tree pose. I learned this by discovering that if I neglected or avoided an area of my body in my practice, that things would feel "off" and my whole practice would feel like a struggle and not be effective, let alone blissful! Imagine if you were to only practice backbending and never forward bending. Eventually you would find that the front of your body is stretched and open, but weakened, while the back of your body is very strong, but also very tight and restricted.
I also learned that there is balance of give and take in every single pose. No matter what I'm doing on my mat, it is necessary that I balance effort and ease. If I max out effort, my body gets uncomfortable and tightens more instead of opening, strengthening and expanding. If I allow too much ease, the pose is sloppy and I'm likely to miss out on any potential benefit. If, however, I adjust to the right amount of effort, energy, and containment in the pose, I have a stable support for the places in my body that can soften and be easeful in the pose.
One of Patanjali's Yoga Sutras states: Sthira sukham asanam
Sthira, in Sanskrit, translates to something like steady or stable, sukham translates to ease filled or comfortable, and asanam refers to the yoga posture
So from this we can take a translation that yoga postures (asanas) should be steady and stable but also comfortable and full of ease. Too much ease and you lose stability. Too much stability and ease suffers. The balance of these two is where all the wonderful benefits of the pose happen.
As the picture in this post shows, the kite needs a certain amount of resistance to really fly. Without the balance of these energies, it would never lift off the ground. Remember that even in (or maybe especially in) the "no"'s, there is expansion.
This week I challenge you to give yourself permission to balance what you give with what you receive, effort with ease, and containment with expansion - and see what happens.
So often, we go through this world hearing, seeing, and believing the messages other people or entities tell us about ourselves. Sometimes we get so lost in this fog of perception that we can’t see through it to what is real and true for ourselves.
I recently had the great privilege of working with a student who had never done Yoga before and wasn’t sure she could. But, she was willing to try anyway. Well, willing isn’t the right word exactly. She was actually EXCITED to try. That, alone, was pretty amazing if you ask me.
The entire practice we did together was beautiful and inspiring from the very first moment until the very last.
But, it wasn’t that she could do the Yoga that was inspiring and moving – I never had the slightest doubt that she could do it. Everyone can! The Yoga you do may look a little different from the Yoga I do which may look a little different than the Yoga my next door neighbor does – but it’s all Yoga and neither is better or worse or more or less real.
So it was not watching her flow easily into every pose that was so inspiring. What moved me almost to tears was how she gave herself over completely to the experience in a completely open-hearted way.
I’m not saying she wasn’t nervous or afraid or resistant or hesitant. She may have been some or all of those things. But if she was, she did not let any of those feelings get in the way of her having a complete experience.
That was what was so powerful about working with her.
So many times in my life, I have found myself hesitating or avoiding doing something that I know I would enjoy because I wasn’t sure I could. And each time I have pushed past that moment, I’ve been totally amazed by the results. But sometimes my fear or hesitancy or resistance interferes with my ability to reap the most possible benefit from these moments. When I try something the first time in a cautious, careful manner – I'm not quite fully committing to the entire experience. I'm robbing myself of some of the joy and wonder I might find in it.
Once again, in another way, I am taught that with the biggest risks, with the most vulnerability, with the greatest openness, we receive the greatest gifts, the biggest ah ha moments, the most sensational wows. These are the moments we can be truly amazed by ourselves.
That’s what’s available to you, if you can look past the fear and hesitancy, the self-judgment and doubt!
Here’s your challenge: Take some time this week, and find a way that you can do this… that you can open up more fully to a new experience. Give yourself the gift of being totally amazed by yourself. Don't forget to report back in the comments about what you did to totally wow yourself!
Photo Credit: Snowflake by AMagill
One of the things that the journey towards Body Acceptance has taught me is that "later" is not my life. My life is now. My life is is a series of precious moments not meant to be wasted.
I used to make myself all kind of "later" promises, only instead of "later", I used "when I am thinner", or "when I lose another ten pounds", or "when I am more confident", or "when I can wear a size 14 or lower"... and the list goes on and on and on, forever.
Are you sensing a theme here?
I think that the reason so many of us in bigger bodies or non-conformative bodies do this to ourselves is because everywhere we look the people doing the things we want to do seem to be thinner, more confident, happier, etc. And we tell ourselves we need to get to that place before we can do them too.
But I'm about to blow your mind here: that isn't the truth. It's just that media is really fucked up. Advertising and media is completely skewed to one particular body type and so that's what we SEE in television ads, magazines, billboards, and flyers. In real life, people of all shapes and sizes do awesome things EVERY day. So why can't we?
When I started realizing that I was putting off so many things I wanted to do or try because of my size, I also realized how much of life I'd been denying myself for so long. And why? Because I thought I would enjoy the activity more when I was thinner? Probably not. In my case, once I dug deep I discovered that it was because I thought I didn't deserve it until I was thinner. And that's really the kicker, isn't it? It often comes back to our sense of self-worth. That's when it hit me that my self-image needed some serious work. And it is work, don't get me wrong. It still is work, almost every single day. I haven't reached some sort of body-image enlightenment where confidence comes super easy. It's gotten easier. But some days, it's still really rough. And that's okay. It's all part of the process.
Every time I catch myself saying that I'll do something "later", I try to stop that line of thinking right in its tracks. Then I remind myself that if I had told myself that I would become a fat Yoga teacher "later", I probably never would have done it. And becoming a Yoga teacher is, easily, the best decision I have ever made. I had never dreamed I could be so happy and so passionate, doing a job I love right down to my tippy toes. And yet, here I am doing just that. Here's the cool part: Once you start living life for right now, you realize how awesome it is and it gets easier to get brave about doing things right now!
The bottom line is that you deserve happiness right now. You deserve joy and play and love and desire and wonder right now. You deserve to live your life fully in this moment. And this moment. And this one.
So I have a challenge for you: Today I want you to eliminate at least ONE "later" from your list and do it RIGHT AWAY. Whether it is the purchase of a new pair of jeans you've been putting off until you're a certain size, or signing up for a new activity, a new tattoo, a new hairdo, or saying hello to that person you've been crushing on. Promise yourself, today, that you'll pick ONE thing (or more) from your "later" list and do it right now. And don't forget to tell me in the comments what you're committing to do to live your life NOW!
And hey, you know, if Yoga is on your "later" list, babe - I got you. I'll see you on the mat!
My life has been busy and tumultuous lately in some really wonderful and amazing ways. But, as I've mentioned before, even good things can be terrifying!
What I really find is that the more that I step into new territory in my life, and as a teacher, the more wondrous everything becomes. Of course, with the wonder comes growth, and fear.
It's easy to talk about being brave or about being excited for new things that you know will challenge you. But as those things draw nearer, the instinct is still to pull back, to withdraw, to hide, to avoid, to procrastinate, and to do whatever it takes to get back in the comfort zone where you know exactly what will happen next. At least, that's the case for me. And I know that when I find myself in that situation, those are the precise moments when it is most critical for me to hold my ground, to step forward instead of retreat.
I read somewhere that courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the actions one takes even though one is afraid. This is where the magic happens, if you ask me. I know I say that a lot - about the magic happening where things get tough, but it's so true!
So while I've been talking about the steps I'm taking to pursue my dream, my passion for Yoga - and while I've had lots of honest things to say about how excited I am for this new future I am crafting, I am also shaking in my boots.
It's been one thing to plan, to talk, to dream, to take action. Yet another as deadlines and new beginnings loom nearer and nearer. I said to my wife, recently, that it feels as though I've been talking and planning this big leap and so I've gotten used to that part. But now that I'm getting closer to it, I feel like the parachute is strapped on and I'm in the plane as we are gaining altitude and, well, there's a big difference between planning and being THIS close to jumping.
I've made a decision to move away from the familiar and toward the unfamiliar. The groundwork has been laid. Now, all that's left is to reach altitude, and jump.
Before I get there, I know that I will have made peace with my fear. No one is going to have to push me out. I'll be stepping into the unknown of my own will - and the second I do, I know that my Self will be forever changed.
At 10,000 and climbing...