“I’ve never seen a Vasistasana look like that,” a yogi-lebrity teacher hissed, as other students in the room directed their Dristi my way for an example of what not to do. “Put that banana back,” another teacher scolded me before class. Apparently, biting into said banana within 30 minutes of starting practice would cause me to burp, and therefore disrupt his highly controlled room.
We hear it a lot in yoga – “don’t judge yourself”; “just breathe”; or here’s one I hear a lot, “there is no right or wrong in yoga!” But reality is, sometimes our teachers, our egos, or an audible sigh from the dude flowing next to us can stop our sweet, perfect-as-we-are, yoga flow dead in its tracks. We’re human. And try as we might, we judge – both ourselves and others.
But what I’ve learned since my side plank pose debacle and banana as contraband incident is this: shame and judgment are a choice – in my yoga practice, teaching, and daily life. In those moments judgment starts to creep in, I remind myself of the following:
1. There Are Other Teachers And Classes
Why keep going back to a class that leaves you feeling less than awesome? Move on already. It could simply be that that particular teacher’s style or personality just doesn’t jibe with yours. No big deal. Move on and find another one that does. And know that every teacher has an occasional bad day, and likely didn’t intend to leave you feeling like your choice of pre-practice snack or crazy variation of side plank was wrong. In my case, both the above-mentioned teachers are amazing and I have since practiced with them again, leaving with a smile on my face and hugs from both.
2. Get Present
Consider that maybe your stories about past experiences are sending you into serious fragile zone. To build a solid foundation in your tree pose you gotta be present. Wallowing over last week’s argument with a loved one will only inhibit your ability to feel strong and steady. So breathe, observe what’s right in front on you, and enjoy.
3. Appreciate Your Differences
No yogi is the same, nor do we have the same practice. Genetics, past experiences, injuries, physical activities all find their way onto our mats on any given day. Appreciate it instead of judging. Smile at that girl rocking her crow in the front row, even if your talons are stuck on the ground. Negative thoughts are for the birds, so let that go and rejoice in your unique practice.
4. Pretend You’re Picasso
When my inner critic starts to flare, I channel Picasso. Or any other abstract artist who keeps on painting, regardless whether anyone else can figure out what they’ve created on canvas. My practice. My pose. My expression. That is enough.
5. Be Kind
Ever notice how good you feel about yourself after doing something nice for someone else? Smile at the yogi one mat over. Let the stressed out customer behind you in line go first. Sign up for that benefit 5K run. Do enough good for others, and judgment and shame will have no room to creep in.