Don’t *Should* On Yourself!



downward ddog

A master at work. Courtesy Stephanie Sicore via Flickr

Yoga class. Downward dog. As my hands push into the floor and my legs quiver in response to a deep stretch, I begin to wonder… Am I doing this right? Are my legs and arms where they’re supposed to be? In an instant my attention is off my mat. My eyes and mind wander to the others around me in the room. I begin comparing their postures to mine and wiggle around my mat to make what I think are the adjustments I SHOULD make.

Before I know it I am no longer gently working on myself but rather beating myself up! Becoming aware of this, oddly enough, I start to judge my judging! “Wow what a cycle!” I thought as my confidence began to dwindle.

Then I remembered the intention I set for my practice that day: “Listen to your body.”

Gathering my thoughts, I gently escorted them back to my mat. Refocused, I coached myself through letting go of all of my high expectations, the things I thought I should be doing. The object of my attention became just sensing my body, awareness of my pose. My thoughts shifted to “I can do this. I will do my best.”

Soon my self-doubt and uncertainty faded. A sense of calm and stable confidence replaced it. As I leaned into the stretch of the pose with my breath and attention focused, my downward dog not only felt more comfortable but it was in a deeper position than before!

Only a few minutes worth of thoughts on my mat but, oh, how they represented my daily life struggle. Always striving to be better, to meet high expectations and to do what I “should” be doing, it took a long time to see how these thought patterns keep me anxious and feeling guilty. Now with the power of my “I can only do my best” mantra, I can feel confident and therefore more at ease.  Who would have thought!

Here’s your gentle challenge: Turn a curious eye to how often you put a “should” or “must” on yourself today. Instead, be kind. Remember that who you are and what you’re doing is your best in this moment. And that is good-enough!

Nicole Newcomb-Chumsky practices mindfullness and cognitive behavioral therapy at Explore What’s Next. Contact her today to learn more.

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