We are our harshest critics

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I can’t do yoga because…

* I’m uncoordinated.

* People will laugh at me.

* I need music.

* I talk too much.

I heard this all today, in a matter of a few seconds in conversation with a few other women. We should be mindful of the stories we tell ourselves, whether they have to do with yoga or anything else.

Is it that you can’t do yoga, or you won’t? Sometimes we know ourselves well and we know what we will or won’t enjoy. Maybe you’ve tried yoga and thought it’s not your thing. But can you drill deeper? Was it a particular class, style of yoga, or teacher that didn’t work for you? Was it your mindset that day? Was something else going on in your life that made it a poor experience? Are you willing to give it another shot?

The conversation also made me sad because I could see how hurtful women can be toward themselves and how they fear others will perceive them.

A yoga studio is a welcoming place for everyone. There’s no audition process to get in, no proof needed that you can touch your toes. There are no women on mats lined up against a wall holding cards numbered 1-10 like in the Olympics, ready to judge you. It’s just you and your mat. You come to yoga to work on yourself. Come to my class, or any class, as uncoordinated as you are, and with regular work you’ll get more coordinated, if that’s your goal. Maybe you have a different goal. Maybe you have no goal at all. It doesn’t matter. Just show up to your mat.

Ladies, be kind to yourselves. The world needs a lot of love and healing right now but it starts with loving yourself.

Time to move to Plan B, or C, or D…

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I have a group of students at the university who haven’t always taken a straight path to graduation. They’ve transferred schools, changed majors a few times, or in some cases, left school for many years before deciding to come back.

I recently read the reflection papers they submitted as part of their last course. Some wrote about their disappointments in getting poor grades or not getting accepted into programs they had their hearts set on. For many, this interdisciplinary studies degree was Plan B, or C, or D…

Here’s what one student wrote:

Let the learning and exploration take you on a path, instead trying to dictate it yourself. I immediately saw the correlation with my own academic career. I had been viewing my adult life as being on a “Plan B” path since I failed at becoming a teacher. However, I wasn’t weighing all the positive involvement activities I participated in, all the courses I did well with, and even all the learning that happened with courses I dropped. In my mind there had been no other option than to be a teacher or double major from a Wisconsin school. And there I was working as a development officer at a prestigious theater oblivious to how much my path had changed, how much I achieved, and most importantly, that that change was not a failure.

I left a variation of the same feedback for almost every student: “Your degree took you the time it was meant to take, and you were meant to be an interdisciplinary studies student.”

I have struggled with this concept myself at times — I have a plan for things and then feel disappointed when that plan doesn’t come to fruition. I have had to let go and realize there is something bigger going on.

I have a writing project that I have been working on since 1999. Yes, that’s right — almost 20 years. Sometimes I get impatient or down on myself, thinking thoughts like, if I were a better writer, I’d be able to kick this thing out. I see other writers who are so productive and produce a book a year. But quickly I try to banish those competitive thoughts. This book is taking a long time for a reason. It certainly has changed in the nearly 20 years I’ve been working on it, and I actually think the topic is more relevant than ever.

Is there a timetable you’ve struggled with? Have you been guided to a Plan B, a Plan C, etc., and now you understand the reason for the change?

That 10 percent…

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If you came across $100, but somehow lost 10 of those dollars, would you incessantly focus on the $10 that was lost, or the $90 that you still had?

I have a theory of 10 percent that I’ve used for many years to refer to my classrooms. No matter how big the class, about 10 percent of the students are problematic. Maybe they don’t show up, maybe they give me a hard time, maybe they are disruptive.

I used to find myself thinking constantly about these students. They frustrated me and caused me to question my abilities as a teacher. Finally, one day I realized that 90 percent of my students are great — why was I not focusing on them? Why not focus on what was going well?

I still think about that 10 percent, but I am much quicker to turn my thoughts around and focus on the positive. I see how this thinking filters into other areas of my life. For example, I’ll be training for a running event, working hard to get in several runs in a week, doing some light weight work, complementing my training with yoga, drinking lots of water, eating right, etc. Then I’ll go out for a run and feel horrible! It will feel like I hadn’t even been training. Those bad runs really get me down, until I realize that it’s just an off day and I’m allowed to have an off day. I am learning to trust that the next day’s run will probably feel much better.

Or in terms of relationships — how easy it is to let your mind settle on the relationship that isn’t going well. But then taking a moment to pause and think about all the love that surrounds you.

It’s about deciding which thoughts will take up your precious mental space. The 90 percent positive, or the 10 percent negative? Are you going to focus on what’s going well in your life, or concentrate only on what’s not going well?