A few fellow teachers and I recently had a discussion in which a few admissions came out. One teacher admitted that she eats meat and feels bad because so often her fellow yoga teachers and many of her students are vegetarian or vegan. Another admitted that she no longer enjoyed the style of yoga that keeps her studio financially successful and wants to start practicing a more gentle style of yoga but fears what others will think. Another admitted that she doesn't have a meditation practice and feels guilty because she thinks that a yoga teacher "should" have a regular meditation practice. Another said that she feels badly because she's not "spiritual" enough because she basically practices yoga only for strength and flexibility.
And how about yoga students? I've met students who feel that they "should" be more peaceful after practicing yoga for a certain period of time or students who feel like they are a "failure" at yoga if they can't touch their toes. I've also met a few students who actually dislike yoga but go to class because their friends are doing it and they feel that it's the cool thing to do so they try to convince themselves that they enjoy it. I've overheard students complaining that their form should be better, their body leaner, their thoughts quieter.
We're all so busy focusing on fixing, improving, and changing, that sometimes I wonder what happened to loving what is. What if it were okay to be how you are as opposed to like others are or who others expect you to be? Has the quest for self improvement, being our "best self," and living our "best life" robbed us of self love? Has our quest to be something better, faster, stronger, more enlightened separated us from our true selves (or maybe it's confused the heck out of us so that we no longer even recognize who we truly are)?
I once read an article discussing how Facebook use contributes to depression because people see the lives of others and begin the no-win game of comparison. You see a Facebook friend's vacation photos and you start to feel like you don't travel anywhere and if you do, the locations aren't exotic enough. You see "happy" family photos on Facebook and you lament your single status. You see someone's friend count and feel inadequate because you don't have anywhere near the number of friends.
This seems to be my musing for the week as this has just cropped up in my own life. I'm coming up against thoughts on how I think I should be versus my true nature. For a while I was in a relationship with someone who had quite a different personality style as I. I often tried to be more like him and would often feel wrong, bad, inadequate because I wasn't. I internalized his comments about how I should be more like this or more like that. I left the relationship and hadn't really thought about it until just now. I find myself in a situation where the messages that tell me how I should be are quite different from my true nature. Rather than respect and appreciate who I am, I'm doing the same thing I did when I was in that relationship -- I'm shoulding myself to death. Needless to say, it's unpleasant.
After all, isn't this why I became passionate about yoga therapy -- because it focused on the needs of the individual rather than push the individual to fit into the yoga mold?
Do I really want to temper my uniqueness -- and essentially compromise who I am and what makes me happy -- to fit into a group or please society or look "good?"
I posed that question to those yoga teachers I mentioned above. I also asked them this question when they used the word should: says who?