Have you ever listened to what your inner critic actually says to you on the daily?
Mine says stuff like, “Wow, you’re really terrible at that.” “What makes you think you can do this?” “Who do you think you are?”
It’s now week 4 of my 200-hour yoga teacher training. When we started a few weeks ago, one of my wise teachers (the indomitable Colleen Hieber) asked us all to think about what resistance looks like. We had to write down an answer to this question: “What stops me from completing what I want to do?”
Now we’re a month in and last week I got a peek at that Resistance first-hand. I’m fairly comfortable and confident in my practice at this point. I’m not an expert or an advanced student, but I no longer doubt myself much in class anymore. I know my limitations and my strengths.
But learning to teach others how to do yoga, specifically how to cue them to bend themselves into these shapes with Sanskrit names, is a WHOLE other ball of wax.
My mind goes completely blank. I know the pose, but I don’t know how to tell you to make it with your own body.
And then my mind starts sounding off with some pretty harsh reprimands, such as “I can’t do this.” “I’m no good at this.” “How come I’m not getting it?”
Then I move on to the justifications: “I don’t really need to teach. I’m not even sure I want to teach. I don’t need to do this.”
I realized this week that I may have a particularly vocal Resistance that is speaking up because it’s not used to being poked too much. It kind of gets to run the show in my life.
As a freelancer/small business person, I don’t do things I’m no good at. I do the jobs I want to do, and typically I accept those jobs and get excited about them because I’m pretty sure I’m going to do an awesome job at them.
Sure, I stretch myself and learn new skills from time to time, but on my own terms. I don’t have a boss assigning me a new project I have no choice but to complete. I don’t answer to shareholders who want to move in a new direction. I do the work I want to do, for the most part, on my own terms.
So I was feeling pretty crappy about my progress in teacher training, but I drug myself to my favorite Monday morning yoga class with Colleen, still brooding a bit about my sucky teaching skills.
We got to the part of class where we do handstand drills. In fact, that day, she challenged us to do one-minute holds. And it was hard, but I did it. Then she says to us, “Remember when you first started coming to my class and you couldn’t do a handstand? Now you can hold it for a minute. Can you appreciate that transformation?”
Aha! Lightbulb moment. Because I remember exactly how I felt two years ago in her class, thinking, “Handstands, is she crazy?!” The first time, I don’t even think I tried to do one.
My Resistance said, “You’re too old.” “You’re too weak.” “You’re too fat.” “You could never stand on your hands.”
That voice was strong. I believed it 100%. But the rebel in me wanted to try anyway. At first, I would kick as hard as I could, and THUD, hit the wall behind me, if I could even kick up at all. Then one class Colleen asked us “Have you noticed what you’re saying to yourself as you try to kick up? Can you change that dialog?”
It’s amazing how when you tell yourself you can’t do a thing, you then in fact, actually can’t do it. You prove yourself right. And the cycle perpetuates.
So I changed that conversation. I would say to myself instead, “I am light. I am light. I am light.” Over and over again, and that was the only thought I allowed in my brain while any type of inversion was being attempted. I meant it in both the divine and physical ways.
And I stopped arguing with my Resistance. I told it instead, “I hear you. I might really suck at this. I might fail. But I’m going to try anyway.”
I remember my sense of utter delight and wonder when I actually got upside down.
Cut back to what I wrote that day when asked how my Resistance shows up for me and what stops me from finishing something I want to do. I said:
- I think it’s too hard and I can’t do it.
- I check out when I feel like I’m not doing something really well.
- I get overwhelmed and my energy drains.
Check, check, and check. Thanks for coming to yoga teacher training with me, Resistance. Glad to see you made yourself comfortable.
How to handle the Resistance
Sound familiar? If so, here’s what I plan to say to myself next time this happens. Maybe you can try it too.
Here’s the deal, Resistance. I understand you just want to protect me. You don’t want to see me fail and my ego get crushed. But you know what? My Curiosity is in charge for awhile. We’re going to try a few things that are going to make you uncomfortable. Everything will be okay, I promise.
Because whether it’s standing on my hands or figuring out how to explain Downward-Facing Dog (that’s Ardho Mukha Svanasana to me) to a beginner, I want to try to learn something new.
P.S. Part of the reason I recognized Resistance is that I just finished reading The Big Leap, which is all about how you have an Upper Limit Problem you don’t even realize. It’s definitely worth a read.