As I scanned the yoga studio to see who needed an assist, the woman in the front corner caught my attention. She wasn’t doing the pose the teacher had instructed. Instead, she was sitting in a butterfly pose, alternately slumped over and fighting with herself to push her hips open more, in that forceful way that comes from the belief that if we force the body into a pose, the body will respond by easing in.
I have observed my own body engage in that fight several times. Sometimes, it feels like I win the fight. But it’s a hollow victory that tends to precede a setback.
Forceful instructions don’t work for the body, mind, or spririt.
We cannot beat ourselves into submission.
I knew this woman was recovering from a recent shoulder injury, and that she had completed the teacher training program that ran in the winter.
Even though she wasn’t on the same pose as the others, I felt called to assist her.
I approached her and crouched beside her. Putting my hands on her shoulders, I whispered into her ear:
Sometimes, especially when we are recovering from injury, the hardest part of the practice is self-compassion.
She looked up at me and smiled. She knew this, of course. And, like all of us, she needed a reminder.
One of the most challenging aspects of a yoga class — or any physical endeavor — is that our bodies don’t always want to cooperate with what we want them to do. We may think we can beat ourselves into submission, but this doesn’t work in the long term.
Compassion is a crucial element to teach our students, but we cannot teach something we don’t have in ourselves.
Our practice starts with self-compassion.