Last month I walked past the sandwich board outside of University Avenue’s Lululemon emporium twice every Tuesday and Thursday for two weeks and each time I wanted to kick it. In my wildest moments I envisioned myself carrying a can of spray paint so no one else would walk past, read its message, and have that little moment of feeling less than. What words did I find so offensive?
My mascara runs faster than you do.
I’m guessing the marketing genius who came up with that tag line believed she was being light-hearted, and that it was meant to inspire those women for whom running is a passion. But for the rest of us – the walkers and Sunday bikers, or the woman balancing work, kids and all of life’s unexpected surprises – it was offensive.
Am I over-reacting? Maybe.
Except that it happens all the time. Social media is crowded with words that, on the surface, appear to inspire. But pick at the corner and peel back the shiny veneer and underneath you’ll find a subtext – intended or not – that is mean spirited and ugly.
If your dreams don’t scare you they’re not big enough.
I have dreams that are small enough to hold in my hand. I have bigger dreams, too, and I have dreams that are the size of all the beating hearts in the world and are unlikely to ever come true – but they still make me smile. Dreams that scare? Those are called nightmares.
We need to consider the words we choose, the words we share.
We’re all writers now and it’s a dangerous thing because it’s so easy to stick to the slick surface of a pretty sentence. But words and sentences and the messages we’re trying to send have layered context and connotations.
There’s an essay making the rounds on social media from a young yoga teacher. You can read that essay here. She screams her way through five hundred or so words, lambasting the yoga industrial complex and layering her argument with more than a few expletives. She ends her rant with this:
…It is ALL f***ing yoga! There is no concrete, set in stone, no if ands or buts way to teach or practice yoga…
As I watched the likes and hearts, the shares and affirmative comments pile up I had to wonder what I was missing.
Because I believe she’s wrong.
And she’s wrong in the same way that Lululemon’s sandwich board sign was wrong and that passive aggressive adages reminding me that my dreams should be scary disguised as deep and meaningful philosophy are wrong.
The nuances of teaching are, of course, up to the individual teacher’s personality and whims but the core of yoga and the asana we practice is part of a system that has evolved over thousands of years. If we play music at savasana does it interfere with our practice of concentration and truthfulness? Yes, it does. It transforms savasana – the most difficult of poses – into sleepy relaxation. What is our intention as teachers? As yogis? If our practice has evolved to a state where anything goes – as this yoga teacher’s essay implies – then I want out.
Yoga, at its core, is about self-regulation. It’s about observing, understanding, reacting – all with clarity and honesty. It’s about being aligned with the Yamas and Niyamas.
I know that a dear friend of mine would suggest I’m taking myself too seriously. Taking yoga too seriously. Of course I am.
Yoga is not a witty aphorism. It’s my life.