Do You Try Too Hard?

Do I try too hard? Okay, the answer is yes. I mean no matter how much I thought I was softening or relaxing, the fact was, I was doing way too much. But that’s been changing. 

My favorite answer to a yoga question, that I think is applicable to anything not just yoga, comes from Lorin Roche’s book Meditation Made Easy. On page 25, he asks in the context of meditating, “What Can I Do Wrong?” That is such an overplayed question in my mind, and I think how many times has that prevented me from doing something. I certainly have a lot of fear of “doing it wrong,” which has most definitely been a role in me making things harder than they probably are. But the question is not what intrigues as much as the answer:

"Working at it, trying, or forcing—that’s almost the only thing you can do wrong in any meditation. If you are too carefree, it’s easy to move in the direction of alertness when you want to. But if you are rushed or tense in your approach, you may build habits that prevent you from resting in meditation, and then you won’t want to do it. Take a modified hands-off attitude towards your mind."

There are so many reasons I love this answer, even though it is so unlike the way I operate, especially when I apply this to my yoga asana practice. The dictionary definition of “hatha” is to force, and now based on this, the only way to do it wrong is to force. Another paradox in yoga!

 Just look at that vein protruding from my forehead! Do I look relaxed and welcoming, or scary and intimidating? (You don't have to answer 

Just look at that vein protruding from my forehead! Do I look relaxed and welcoming, or scary and intimidating? (You don't have to answer 

Lately, I have been exploring my options on my yoga mat and as a teacher. After 20+ years of serious practice and being a fairly strong and dogmatic teacher, I found myself a lot like the description above, “tense in my approach” with “habits preventing me from resting.” I’ve noticed when I’m a student taking a class and listening to the teacher’s directions (I kind of associate them more as commands), I end up trying so hard to follow them that I get so tense. Maybe I’ve been traumatized from years of teachers coming over to me and telling me that I need to do more — it’s not enough, which I translate as, “I’m not good enough. I’m doing this wrong.” Traumatized!

Every muscle is over working that my veins look like they’re about to burst, especially the one on my forehead. And I feel more like a machine (I’m picturing myself as a Transformer) then a body of water. And I need to constantly be reminded that I am A BODY OF WATER. 

So what am I doing on my mat and as a teacher? Well, I’m inviting and encouraging myself and students to explore being fluid, and to forget about trying, forcing, or in anyway thinking that there is some “right” way to be doing this pose. Instead, I'm listening and moving how I feel inclined to move. There is so much permission to vary and play, which in the past would have been scary for me as a student because I would have thought I was doing it wrong or intimated me or threatened my security as a teacher (subtitle - I, as teacher, know what is best for you, as student). Now, I’m celebrating people just moving and watching the fluidity and ease of their movements (and me too) versus tensing up and being all stiff, or as Lorin says, "working at it, trying, or forcing." I know it might not be revolutionary, but for me it feels so healthy.

Tell me, how do you move? Do you try to hard?