One lovely spring morning I said to my husband: “I would love to go for a run.” He said: “Why don't you?” I didn't tell him about the shoulding that immediately took off in my mind: “But I should do my yoga practice. At the very least some sun salutations. I really should practice more. Ugh, I'm so bad.”
This is what my yoga practice has become lately. Something I should do. No longer something I look forward to. I decided to go with my gut and went for a run. The fresh air, the sunlight, the trees were exactly what I needed.
I think many of us are familiar with the contracted sensation of shoulding. Many of us have trouble finding the exit ramp into the pleasure principle. After my run, I felt inspired to write a short Instagram post about my overcoming the sense of obligation (yoga) and going for what I felt like doing (running in nature).
A student wrote a response in the comment section and got me thinking: “For me it's very important to go onto the yoga mat anyway (...) and start with whatever comes, because the feeling of obligation/”I should” is (...) wanting to run away from something...”
What makes my heart sing
I saw her point and it's a valid one. Sometimes giving ourselves a kick in the butt can bring us satisfaction and serenity. But it's exactly what this society of over-achievers is teaching us: “Go the extra mile. Put in the work. See the benefits you will reap.” But for me, at this point in my life, I no longer want to waste time and energy on shoulding. I want to go straight for what makes my heart sing.
I've spent years, decades really, shoulding like a convinced Puritan: Working out even though I felt too tired. Dieting even though I wanted to eat whatever. Putting a lot of work into my former business, when really I wanted to invest in creative endeavors. Forcing myself to get up early and meditate because that's what a yoga teacher is friggin' supposed to do. (By the way, shoulding totally defeats the purpose of meditation).
It's not the discipline I object to. We all need a portion of that, or we would never get anything done. But why all the teeth grinding? Why are we so hard on ourselves? When we're lucky enough to have a choice, why make ourselves do something that doesn't feel good?
Over the last couple of weeks, I have taken up dancing again. This is much more than rekindling an old passion. It's me, finally being kind to myself. It's me letting myself do what I love.