Outside of teaching yoga, I also teach ballet. And for the past few weeks, my students have been in final preparation mode for an upcoming show. During such crunch times, as the body and mind become exhausted, it’s not uncommon for an injury to occur. Consequently, I wasn’t very surprised when one of my students came in Tuesday morning to inform me she’d been injured Monday night. The thing that did surprised me, however, was the manner in which she responded to the injury. For like usual, she came in and attempted to run through an assortment of movement – jumps, turns, stretches, extensions of the legs and hips. This time however, after each attempt to do something, she’d stop, pause and ask herself, “Okay, what else can I not do?” The new discomfort in her body caused her to question her abilities to move safely towards her goals.
This little inquiry/investigation continued for fifteen minutes prior to the beginning of class and I can imagine through barre, center work, and exercises across the floor. And each time, she repeated this question – this mental mantra to herself, I noticed that her moment became smaller and smaller. Her focus began to drop, her shoulders round, and eventually she stopped moving at all. This bold, and somewhat challenging student I’d come to respect as one of my great teachers in patience and self-confidence, suddenly became someone I could hardly recognize.
I bring all this to mind because at that moment, I recognized that the question “Okay, What else can I not do?” had become a mental mantra my student was repeating to herself, that I had been repeating to myself, and that many others were consciously or unconsciously repeating to themselves in the face of some obstacle. I mean honestly, how many times have we seen an item of clothing and immediately said, “Oh no, I could never wear that?” or witnessed someone doing something brave, brazen, bold, or reckless and thought “Oh, no, I could not to that”? At that moment, I realized that so often we operate in a manner that constantly seeks out confirmation, proof, of the thoughts and beliefs we’ve already stored in mind and consequently dismiss anything that goes against those pre-ascribed beliefs – regardless of the intensity of that conflicting information.
The question that I have for you, the question I am working to answer for myself is in what ways do you limit your own possibilities through your thoughts? How do you respond to moments of discomfort? And when do you tell yourself you cannot do something because it is new, foreign, unfamiliar, or “not you”? These self-limiting beliefs could be in the area of work where perhaps you fear making a change because risk is involved. Maybe in the area of relationships, you may feel unable with being seen or vulnerable. Or perhaps there are areas within your asana practice where you shut yourself off from certain poses because they seem beyond your reach.
Whatever it is for you, I would like you to begin to notice as these thoughts come up and instead of immediately saying “No that’s not me,” practice instead saying “Yes.” Yes, to the discomfort. Yes to the uncertainty. Yes to the lack of predictability. Yes the possibility for growth and transformation. Yes to living life as completely, as wholly, and as messily as you can.