Permission to Modify

I hear myself constantly say in class, “well, you could do it this way … or this way … or this way … ” And I’ve thought, maybe I should just state ONE way & be done with it — the class would go faster, I’d talk less, it’d be more efficient, etc. etc. etc.

I was thinking about this constant “permission to modify” today in class as I gave about 3 variations on a posture … & I as I observed folks moving into their posture, there were like 6 different variations in the room!

And it was amazing.

When I’m “teaching,” I’m never just teaching … I’m learning every second of the class. I’m a student. And I learned today (& every day) that it’s pretty damn cool to see people practicing THEIR practice … not doing what I say for it’s own sake, but making their Yoga their own.

I also constantly remind myself & others to modify/vary/adjust postures & techniques because in my own life I grew up & still work with my own perfectionist tendencies. I grew up telling myself, “Well, if that’s how the teacher says to do it, I’m going to do it that way x100 (or I’m going to do it my own way … and BETTER).” Or more often I’m competing with myself, trying to get to some “ideal” that probably doesn’t even exist.

I’ve heard it said that yoga practice allows us to see what we’re working with off our mat / cushion. What we learn on our mat, we then take out into the world.

What I’ve learned through my 13-year yoga practice is that my own perfectionist tendencies off the mat have resulted in burnout, injury, or ignoring my own body/mind’s needs in order to get to some arbitrary goal.

I think there’s a natural human tendency to go with the crowd, do what others are doing, even to our own detriment — & that tendency can happen in yoga spaces too.* Sometimes we get the idea that there’s a certain way to do sun salutations, there’s a certain placement for your feet in warrior 2, there’s a certain way you place you fold your hands in meditation, etc. etc. And yes, there are alignment cues for safety reasons, there are body part placements for energetic reasons … & yet when we GET CAUGHT UP in those particulars too much … well … we can lose the whole point of Yoga, which is to come home to ourselves & that inner divinity that KNOWS & knows that it knows.

And often our inner knowing is just whispering, “Give yourself a break. Seriously. You’re doing fine. You’re doing GREAT, actually. You don’t NEED to do more, be more, have more. You’re already enough. Just as you are.”

In group classes or private sessions, I continue to give permission to modify or adjust the practice to fit you today at this time. Not that you need permission! Yet sometimes our minds just need that little nudge to remember why we’re doing Yoga in the first place — hey, remember to listen to your body … hey, remember to breathe … hey, take it easy here, it’s ok.

So if you, like me, need to be reminded every so often that it’s perfectly perfect to modify, intensify, vary or adjust your yoga practice to meet your needs that day … Here’s your permission slip. No expiration date.

*This is why I love home practice. No eyes on me, no looking at other folks, just me practicing with the teacher and doing my thing. Try an online class.

Published by ericaengel42

I practice & share Hatha Yoga for a simple reason -- it works. Hatha Yoga in the Himalayan Tradition is a holistic system of philosophy & practices passed down through an unbroken 5,000 year lineage of Himalayan sages. What Hatha Yoga is not: trendy, bendy or one-&-done. What Hatha Yoga is: a systematic approach to uncovering the real, authentic YOU in body, mind & spirit. Hatha Yoga cultivates well-being, stability, clarity & ease in modern life through traditional, time-tested practices. I also recognize both our shared humanity & our differing privileges & barriers -- I am a cis-gendered white female with a graduate degree, who has dealt with family trauma & an eating disorder. My goals in my own practice include to cultivate awareness of my own privileges & social conditioning, unlearn & re-learn in order to be mindful & take compassionate action toward a more beautiful, just & peaceful world for ALL humans, creatures & our Earth. I'm making mistakes daily, & hopeful that I'm falling forward toward these goals & vision. I hope we can walk our paths & support each other along the way.

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