That one time I pretended I wasn't a dancer so my yoga teacher would give me lots of praise...
Some of you have heard me talk about my competitive streak before. I've been trying to tame it for years. I've made enough progress that now I can look back and laugh at all the ridiculous things I once did. Even if I still cringe when I think of these stories.
I never liked not being good at something. Like, it was so painful for me to do something that I sucked at that I would avoid doing it. Remind me to tell you next time about the hours I spent secretly practicing guitar hero so that I could beat my (also) super competitive roommate and pretend I was a natural at it, lol. P.S. I couldn't move my hand after the many hours of practice... and yes, I'm fully aware that I can never get those hours back in my life.
Anyways, so when I was in my early 20s, I would go to a yoga class with a new-to-me teacher. I would pick the front row, and when they would ask who was new, I'd put up my hand. In my head, I'd think (I'm new to you... I'm new to this space... so it's fair game). Realistically, while I wasn't a die-hard yogi, I had spent my entire life eating, sleeping, and dancing. I danced 30 hours a week, taught dance, and travelled all over for competitions.
So yes, I was new. But also, I was trained to learn movement by demonstration and verbal cues and picked up new things fairly easily. I was also really good at making things look good, even if I wasn't doing them in ways that supported the health of my body. I'd participate in the yoga class and then bask in all the compliment glory at the end. Also, yes, I really like positive feedback, lol. As a competitive dancer, positive praise was always the goal. Then I married my partner Eric, and he started gently asking me about all of these ridiculous things I would do. Then I watched him join a hockey league with men who had played their entire lives when he had learned to play as an adult. He would tell me how he was the only guy on the team falling, but that everyone was really encouraging and he was having so much fun. Eric and I talked A LOT about this. And, the only conclusions I could come to were that: 1) I needed to tame my Ego and 2) I was missing out on so much fun, and I was the only one standing in my way Around the same time that Eric started creating dialogue around these habits of mine, I started taking these amazing Pilates classes with my now mentor, Stephen from KW Pilates. I adore Stephen and his teaching style, but it was really hard for me to be in his class at first because he rarely gave positive feedback. Honestly, I used to think, what's the point if he's not going to tell me I'm killing it? Why doesn't he think I'm good enough to do the harder stuff? I think I'm doing this really well, why won't he tell me that? Instead of, wow, good job! He'd say things like, see if you can find a little more space, or what does that feel like? Sound familiar, lol? My competitive streak kicked in big time. For a while, I craved his praise and worked really hard to get it. My quest for praise was mostly unsuccessful... But, what he offered me was something so much better. He helped me grow as a person and a mover. With his guidance, I began moving for the sake of moving, not so that I could be the best, or receive praise.
Once I started moving to move and began trusting my own inner experience, that's when the magic came. It was humbling. I started finding all of these small things that I could focus on, and as I worked through them, my ability to move with ease increased. I didn't wake up stiff in the morning anymore. I started noticing how my body would show me if I was not quite yet ready for the challenge... all of these signals that I had never paid attention to before started becoming so apparent to me. It's funny to think back to what this aha was like. Now I can't move without this awareness!
This journey has taught me some big and important lessons:
Doing things that we're not awesome at on the first try offers us the potential for transformation
The point of doing things isn't to be amazing or to get praise
When we stand in our own way, we might be holding ourselves back from so much more than we even realize
The more I understand myself, the more I can meet my own needs and the better I feel
You don't have to be the best, or even good to belong in a movement class. As a movement professional, I'm not scanning the class and deciding who's the best based on how people move, or how much stability and mobility they're demonstrating. I don't always tell you that you're amazing at moving your body, because that's not actually the point.
Instead, what I think as I'm planning classes and teaching, regardless of the person's competency or skill is, how can I give them another aha moment? What's the thing I can do today that will take them further on their own journey? What are they teaching me right now, about how I can better support them towards their goals? What else can I do to allow people to be true to themselves in this class?
Is it about being the best? Hard no. Is it about strength, mobility and pain-ish free living? Yes, I guess it kind of is. But that's just the gravy.