Suffering, or the case for mindful vocabulary

suffering though yoga

suffering though yoga

Verbal ticks happen to the best of us: they happen to writers, public speakers and yoga teachers.  You know what I’m taking about: that repetitive word or phrase that gets used over and over again, so much so that you could throw your block at the teacher!

In my early morning yoga class today, the teacher kept using the words “suffer” and “suffering”.  Huh?  Suffering in yoga?  That sound so very un-yogic!   His word choice jolted me right out of my practice.  Already pretty keyed up, I was looking forward to getting out of my own head and working out the kinks, both physically and mentally.  The repetitive use of suffering was not conducive to the peaceful atmosphere I sought at 6:30am

Now, I’m no sutra scholar, but it seems to me that in the practice of yoga, we learn to embody ahimsa, the practice of non-violence towards ourselves and others.  To suffer is to allow himsa (violence) to occur in the body and mind.  This prevents us from achieving santosha (contentment) and ishvara pranidhana (surrender).  I realize I’m looking at this from a very basic level of understanding a schoalr would have a much more indepth view of these principles, but bear with me here.

While I realize that’s what this teacher was getting at, over-use of the word doesn’t help the students move beyond that to a place of peace and calm.  Vocabulary is huge in teaching and setting the right kind of mood and energy for your class (5th chakra anyone?).  In teacher training I was chastized for describing the gentle nudge of the forearm to the knee in side angle as “cheating the knee out” and in airplane, cueing students to activate their toes as if they “were going to kick a hole in the back wall” … these incidents have been big lessons for me in choosing my words.

Positive words make a big difference in the way I perceive a pose as it’s presented:  if the teacher begings to talk about suffering, I’m going to suffer because the pose must be hard.  Yet if the pose is presented as challenging or intense, I’m more ready to meet that challenge with my breath and work through it.

Perhaps this teacher wasn’t having a very good day or was working out some other issues, hence the obsession with suffering.  Either way, it’s one word (among others) that I would be happy to drop from yoga vocab.

What about other yogis (or public speakers) out there: what have you done to overcome verbal ticks?  How much thought, if any, do you put into what you say in a yoga class?


One response to “Suffering, or the case for mindful vocabulary

  1. I like your message and am more thoughtful about the words that I am using as I instruct.

    What I like even better though is your crazy crow pose pictured.

    Thanks for both.

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