16 June 2011

Judgments, Expectations, and Intentions

Judgment: The process of forming an opinion or evaluation by discerning and comparing; an opinion or estimate so formed; a proposition stating something believed or asserted.

Expectation: the act or state of expecting; anticipation; assurance.

Intention: a determination to act in a certain way; the thing that you plan to do or achieve; resolve; pledge.

It is a phrase you hear almost every time you go into the chamber. It is one of the mantras of a Bikram Yoga class:

No judgments, no expectations.

The idea is (apparently) simple: Accept yourself for who you are. Accept your body for what it can AND cannot do today. Don’t come to class expecting to do every posture, or every set, or every sit-up, etc. More importantly (to me, anyway), don’t beat yourself up once you are in the room.

I said “apparently” because, like so many other things in life, “no judgments, no expectations” is easier said than done. I have quietly chastised myself up for a myriad of reasons: not hydrating, poor balance, falling out of postures, not even trying to do postures, and silently cussing myself out when I am laying on the floor, unwilling or unable to drag myself up once more. Then, of course, there is leaving the room, which my mind perceives as the ultimate humiliation. ("Loser!! You pathetic loser!!")

As for the “no expectations” part, it is really difficult for me to deal with that. Perhaps it’s because I am a guy, or maybe because I am very competitive, or that I simply expect myself to quickly become proficient at whatever it is I’m doing. Doesn’t matter if I’m playing street hockey, or learning a new procedure at work, or trying a new recipe, or performing Triangle pose – I should be able to master it in very short order.   

There is another phrase you hear very often: “Set your intention.”

To me, that means going into class with an expressed idea to do…. something. It may be to simply stay in the room. It may be to at least attempt every posture. Perhaps it could be to not take water during class, or to do every sit-up. It’s not a promise. It is, to me, making certain to try as hard as you can to do improve your practice, and therefore your life. The trick is not to turn that intention into an expectation – with all the mental pitfalls that come with expectations.

It is not the easiest thing in the world, but it IS possible. When I can set (and keep focused on) an intention, it is easier for me to listen to and try to quiet my mind and sharpen my focus. When I can, the class can almost become easy: move and breathe, breathe and move, then rest. (As I've written before, our lead instructor says yoga is simply, "Movement with awareness of breath.") 

Mind you, that hasn’t happened very often. It is, however, one of the big reasons I keep going into that room.



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