Saturday, December 3, 2022

Honoring the Voice Within

Mind, Body and Spirit

Photo by Laurie Kasperbauer | In yoga practice, we hear the voice of instruction, but it’s important to follow the voice of intuition.

“Good judgement comes from experience, and a lot of that comes from bad judgement.” ~ Will Rogers

For as long as I can remember, I have had a dog in my life. As a child, my family always had a dog. We also had cats, turtles, rabbits, hamsters, salamanders and a baby chick that I won in a school raffle in the second grade, but the dog would always receive the best care and the greatest possibility of a warm bed. On the other hand, my husband grew up without pets. Unless you count the unfortunate pigeon that hung around his house looking for bread crumbs tossed from the back door. My husband’s brother claimed the pigeon as his pet until one day my husband “accidentally” shot it off the roof with a BB gun. So, when Rick and I got married in 1980 we got a dog. A cocker spaniel we named Russell. Russell lived to be 17 years old and when he passed our kids were devastated. We waited three whole months before getting a new puppy. Georgie was a Pembroke Welsh Corgi and in the fall of 1997, she was not quite potty trained.

One afternoon, I was on the telephone with my parents. It was a long distance call, on a corded phone, attached to the wall in our dining room. They were filling me in on the details of their adventures in Arizona, and I tried desperately to listen attentively while four little kids and a new puppy ran NASCAR loops through the house. Before long, our oldest son came to me with urgency in his voice. “Mom!”

I gave him a look that said “I’m on the phone, it’ll wait.”

“MOM”! He said again. Louder and with more urgency.

I responded with, “What is it???” in a voice devoid of patience because my parents were describing the sunshine and warm temperatures of the desert and the people they’ve met, and the fact that they’re buying a new pickup…..

“Mom! Georgie went to the bathroom on the carpet. What should I do?”

Looking back, the first error in judgement was mine. I should have finished the phone call and assessed the situation before rectifying the problem. But no, being both distracted and impatient, I told my son, “Put a big rag on top of it and then step on the rag to soak it all up.”

If I had been paying attention, I might have noticed the odd look in my son’s eyes. He was 11 at the time and at that wonderful age where he was oddly obedient and slow to question the voice of authority. In other words, he did as he was told.

Several minutes later, I ended the call with my parents and went to inspect the puppy mess. How was I to know that it wasn’t potty that hit the carpet, but instead the solid form of doggy-do. And there stood our son with a very concerned look. “You said……..” he pleaded.

Of course, I knew what I said. And he followed the directions exactly. How could I scold him for effectively grinding poo into the living room carpet? So, I shut my eyes really, really tight and I counted to three, or ten or however long it took for my frustration to subside.  

Recently, I was instructing a yoga class and the students were overly obedient. They responded to every cue with synchronized conformity. To some, this may seem ideal, but I am not a believer in perfect anything. No two people will look or feel the same in any one yoga pose, so if this group is following my instruction and even one person is struggling to conform to some ideal of how they might look in a pose rather than how they feel in a pose, I am not doing my job. Yoga is an inquiry. It’s a way of becoming more intimate with our body and learning what feels right; when to move forward and when to hold back. Each body is uniquely constructed with its own capabilities and limitations. When I stand in Tree Pose I may feel stable and strong on a Tuesday, but wobbly and awkward the very next day. Human bodies are not Lego Blocks. We are not all well-aligned angles and corners with  perfectly-matched pegs and spaces. We are more like Mr. Potato Head. There’s a bucket of parts, and a general idea of where they might fit into the potato but we all assemble the parts in our own way. Individually we decide which pieces we can utilize, and how long we want to stay in the game.

As a yoga instructor I appreciate a little bit of rebellion. I encourage students to listen to the voice of their bodies first. If it doesn’t feel good, don’t do it. And if your heart and your soul are driving you toward a greater challenge, then move with them. Obedience has its place, but obedience unaccompanied by good judgement can lead to suffering, or injury……….or a dirty, stinky mess on the carpet.

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