What expectations do you bring to your yoga practice?
If you lost all your flexibility in one day would you freak out?
Why do expect success if we are flexible? Flexibility has nothing to do with yoga.
Are you expecting yoga to feel a certain way?
Spoiler alert: That beautiful yoga high you get after a hard class always ends.
Can you do asana without stretching?
Are you expecting your teacher, guru or favorite online yoga blogger to give you enlightenment or diversion from your problems?
That is your journey. Total reliance on another always leads to blockage.
The expectation trap kills yoga.
For many years I expected my hamstrings to remain flexible no matter what the time, temperature or how I felt. By force or relaxation my chin touched my knees in forward folds, however, that lead to me disconnecting my hamstring attachment.
That injury took over a year to heal. All for what? To authenticate myself as a real yoga teacher?
I teach people asana everyday. I am a real yoga teacher.
We are beautiful and independent free thinkers who have the capacity to heal, hurt and change the world in any way we wish.
You are light, and any expectation that does not arise from your higher self kills that light.
Don’t motivate yourself through expectations
Expectations can create motivation. But it can put you in a trap. I have an expectation to graduate university next year. However, if I create too strong of an expectation than I will bypass my own happiness and sanity for a piece of paper. I’ve started and stopped university many times, and getting out of the four-year degree trap has made my university experience beautiful. I show up to learn about literature and creative writing, not to get a job one day, attain a status, or make my family proud.
Show up to yoga for the moment. An expectation of enlightenment ten years down the road will not motivate you for long. Feeling great during your practice, laughing with others who love yoga, and sharing what you’ve learned along the way will make you show up every day.
Most days I love school, however, some days I really dread listening to a boring professor discuss medieval literature for ninety minutes. However, my expectation that a degree will lead to truth, knowledge and a better life makes me show up.
Let’s break down some common expectations in yoga.
“I need to be more flexible, versed in yoga philosophy, or have x,y and z to be a prominent yoga teacher.”
On the surface level, this expectation will create motivation to get you on your mat more, read new books. Make you seek better teachers, and solidify a routine that works. As great as that sounds, this expectation stems from a lack of self-esteem and fear.
More time and precious energy will be spent on becoming an image of something you are not, than focusing on connecting with your heart orientated path as a teacher. Friends of mine drink coffee four times a day to practice hard no matter what, sometimes even multiples times a day. They will practice through injuries until their bodies shut down and they end up in the emergency room. All out of this expectation.
Or they hide behind an ego and think they know everything about yoga philosophy or whatever yoga related subject. This prevents them from beautiful connections with others in real life and through books who can reveal new revelations. What guru in the east is seeking out an Edwin Bryant academic type for in-depth dialogues to learn more about yoga? Most of the large ones aren’t! They have it all figured out! Their self-imposed expectation that they are the all-knowing guru prevents them from growing more. At one point, that drive to be the guru motivated them to become the guru. Once they achieved that title though, their grind and passion for more knowledge diminished. Don’t fall into the same trap. Never stop exploring! Stop seeking expertise and perfection. Find adventure and an amazing story.
Love and Compassion cannot Exist with Expectations
What about love and compassion? My expectation as a yoga teacher is to spread knowledge, love, and peace to my students. It is easy to fall into worrying about your image as a teacher. You spread the right knowledge that aligns with what modern yoga is doing, and aligns with your guru/teacher’s ideology. That is a major flaw of putting a guru, a teacher and modern yoga trends on a pedestal. An expectation that you will follow their teachings or yoga’s model is created. However, can you show love and compassion when you enforce a system on every student? Instead, listen to your heart.
Teaching yoga is a process of adapting to different people, creating a relaxed environment free of competitiveness, and not putting yourself above the student in any way. Trying to maintain an image prevents you from being vulnerable to your students, and results in playing power games where you see them as lesser. Forcing a student into a system that doesn’t suit them will create a stressful environment. Having expectations within yourself as a teacher manifests expectations in your students.
At the start of my yoga journey I used to attend class with an instructor who was very competitive and brought an ego into class. I quit after a few classes after I realized others were getting injured from adjustments, and that I would soon be a victim. A few years while hanging out with other yoga teachers, they were saying how multiple teachers around town kicked that instructor out of their class. My old instructor would challenge their sequencing out loud in front of the entire class, or adjust students while saying “you’re being taught the wrong way in here.” Ha!
Being honest and authenticate is a superpower in yoga these days. Don’t stress about how you will make money, your reputation or how you will survive if you chart your own path as a teacher. We need more creativity and teachers who are connected to their hearts. I am forever grateful for teachers like Simon Borg-Olivier who took risks and manifested their own sequences and styles from the imagination. We can be the next generation.
Social Media and Expectations
The yoga world on social media is filled with expectations. An expectation that flexibility equals success. Expectations we create about how our follower count reflects our worth. We are becoming gadgets, gauging ourselves by pixels on a screen, and how other online characters judge us. Social media is not bad, but you have to be somebody before you can share yourself. Who you are deep down is free of negative expectations. Be yourself on social media and take risks! Don’t follow the digital model set out by other yogis and hope for success. Even if that does lead to success, your image will be a hollow shell of who you really are.
“I fear that we are beginning to design ourselves to suit digital models of us, and I worry about a leaching of emphaty and humanity in that process.”
Freedom in Yoga
Mistakes will happen along the way when you release expectations. I’ve made a ton of mistakes in my journey through yoga and in life. I have injured myself, let my self-esteem be lowered by yoga and quit yoga for the expectations of others. Laughing at those mistakes now, the road ahead is one of an explorer. Who pushes the limits and creates love and joy through yoga, writing and playfulness in the real world. Drop your expectations and drop anyone pushes expectations on you. Join me on the dark side where imagination, trust in the universe and love shape our journey. Trust me. It’s much more fun!