One consistent tidbit of wisdom that I find myself offering in a yoga class is that we can be aware of a tension or discomfort in a posture, but we should avoid giving it a name.
It’s a habit that comes naturally to us-
This need to label our experiences and the world around us.
As a matter of fact,
people started doing it for us before we could walk or speak for ourselves…
As parents and caregivers; educators of the growing child, we naturally label the sights and sounds for our inexperienced youngins’! As a matter of fact, we find it a duty as we guide and teach the emerging generation.
There truly is nothing wrong with this, it is a natural part of making sense of the thoughts, feelings, and perceptions of the world around us; as a matter of fact, my educational background would defend that this “labeling” is critical to language acquisition and relationship security!
However, and a with great big BUT,
I also defend that there is an appropriate time and place for this chronic labeling habit we have developed.
Though I could definitely take a few tangents in this matter…
Such as the importance of labeling fact rather than opinion
and the value of unbiased labeling—
My goal today is to help you see the value in removing labels from your yoga practice.
As soon as we give something a label, we open the path to judgement.
As soon as we pass judgement, we open the path to escape natural consequences of our thoughts and behaviors.
(This might be something like justifying short tempers because of hormonal disturbances)
There are several postures that are more prone to labeling:
Goddess (too hard),
Pigeon (Too tight),
Frog (Too “What the what?”),
Scorpion (Too advanced),
And I find myself suggesting an awareness if what the body is feeling without label in a long hold chair!
It’s okay, and actually valuable, to recognize what we feel. Like a distraught child, our tension or tightness might be screaming for nothing more than our simple attention.
With a crying child, we might assess the immediate needs for risk or danger, but we ought not ‘give in’ to their unwarranted demands. Beyond recognizing the cries, we might start to label the child as being “tired” or “hungry”justifying their outbursts for attention; and we might give in to judgments and labeling such as “difficult child” or “tantrum”!
(I’m going to end this comparison before it turns into a parenting debate of leniency and discipline)
A ‘crying body’ is much the same.
Hips might cry out that the inner groin is stretched to the max in pigeon
OR hamstrings and thighs might shake & shimmy and beg to trade a tippy toe chair for a gentle forward bend!
A simple awareness lets us assess true danger or injury, warning us to stop or adjust,
but we need not and ought not go beyond simple awareness where we are tempted to assign labels or judgments to our body, mind, or spirit.
When we label those crying hips in pigeon,
We might wrongly assign injury to hips that simply have never gone this deep before. In a split second, with no judgement or verb assignment we can choose to modify our pigeon
Or test the waters and go a little deeper…
Likewise, when we pull out of chair at the first sign of quivering inner thighs,
We deny ourselves the strength and balance that is earned from going just a little lower,
A little longer,
A little deeper then we previously have done or thought we could…
We deny ourselves progress!
Think about all of the labels we use on a daily and consistent basis..
It’s a bad day,
I have a busy schedule,
Notice your labels,
The ones you use consistently,
The ones that come in from around you…
Chances are it’s not a BAD day, it’s just A DAY that needs a little perspective…
It’s not a busy day, but a day that needs priority and care;
My aha moment with this philosophy came when I was a young mom with four kids under the age of 5! Every night at dinner time, right before my husband was set to come home from work, my kids FELL apart… tears, cries, whines, and “mine” screamed right under my feet. I gave in to a habit of greeting my husband with a scowl for the JOY I was convinced he had at work compared to THIS!!! I complained about not being able to go the bathroom alone or having to hide if the phone rang…
In hindsight, I envision that I left a bucket of toxic emotional waste in a garbage pail above the garage door. I had the bucket rigged so that as soon as my hubby walked in the door, the contents of this waste would dump on his hard working, supportive head (there I go labeling in a post about not labeling). Poor guy didn’t stand a chance in this life.
I realized that my WHOLE DAY with my kids was less than perfect but FAR from the tumultuous chaos that came out at 5:00.
With the wisdom of someone LOOKING for a change, I implemented a 4:30 storybook and snack time with my little ones. NO MATTER WHAT, we sat down at 4:30 and I read a few of their FAVORITE books or played a few little games… we had a small snack and then I organized their attention to a craft or game they could work on together. It was a LIFE CHANGER!!! My kids weren’t ‘naughty’ or ‘needy’, or any of the other description words I thought of before. After a long day, they simply needed a little attention. No labels, just recognizing that they were there.
Try it tonight… let yourself just BE! With no labels or notions, just experience the life that comes; give in to the beauty that resides in everything created on this Earth; knowing that it is what it is!