Off The Mat - Expectations

If you practice yoga with me on a regular basis, you know that at the beginning of the year I took it upon myself to start theming my yoga classes month by month. I did this to challenge myself and my creativity as a teacher, to force myself into a deeper study of yoga, and because I wanted to provide my students with both something they could work on/towards for longer than just one class and with a piece of learning that they could take with them.

This monthly theming has ranged everywhere from concepts like the bandhas to postures like working towards single leg crow. I didn't expect this overarching idea of theming per month to create such an open opportunity for me to theme weekly as well. And I've noticed that carrying a subtheme for an entire week really allows me (and my students) to dig deep into that thought or idea, instead of it passing in just one class. 

Throughout all of my teaching I attempt to suggest some way of taking the learning off of the mat and into the rest of daily life - and hence "Off The Mat" is born.

This week's theme fell into my lap via Facebook. A good friend of mine took my yoga class on Wednesday night. This month's theme is to work on arm balances, towards single leg crow, via different crow variations. This week specifically was all about side crow - lots of twisting (no wonder my abs have been so sore!). After class she blogged about how she started crying in class while attempting side crow. She acknowledges that struggling with this posture started a cascading wave of feelings of self doubt and failure. Feelings of comparison to the others in class. Feelings of expectation - and failure to meet that expectation. And, because she's a badass, she very quickly realized and acknowledged those feelings and so strongly moved on to complete class the way she needed to. But this idea of expectation stuck with me.

We go into yoga classes as students with expectations - of ourselves, what we can and can't do, how it is or isn't supposed to feel. With expectations of our teacher, of the other students, of the entire experience. And as teachers we have expectations as well. I expect my students to behave a certain way, to be able to complete some postures and to struggle with others, to leave class having had a positive experience. And I have expectations of myself - how articulate I'm going to be, how the music is going to sound, how my sequencing is going to work out.

But here's the thing with expectation - it's an attempt at controlling the outcome of the future. Which we cannot do. So this week's theme became about letting go of expectation on your mat. Using your breath as your anchor to keep you in the present moment. To feel and experience postures and transitions and pauses as they are happening. And to let them happen as they do, without expecting them to be something else.

When all is said and done, leaving expectation behind when we step on our mat is relatively easy. The challenge becomes stepping off of the mat and doing the same. Can we move in and out of work and life, meetings and interactions, challenging times and easier times without having expectation of outcome, of ourselves, or of others? The challenge becomes about having trust in the process, trust in where you're at, and trust in knowing that it is exactly where you're supposed to be.