yoga + humility


Ahhhh humility...

An almost ancient sounding word.  What does it mean to you?

The dictionary defines humility as

the quality or state of not thinking you are better than other people; the quality or state of being humble.

Like all qualities in life, once you become aware of yourself and your current relationship with that particular quality, how you relate to that quality moving forward becomes a choice.  Sound like gibberish?  Let me try to illustrate:

I firmly believe that happiness is a choice.  Everyday when I wake up, I have the choice to be happy or to not be happy.  Once I choose to be happy, every other choice, every thought, every move I make that day requires me to question: “will this make me happy?”  This can get really sticky when it comes to internal self-talk.  I, admittedly, have a hint of road rage.  So, when I’m scrambling from one place to the next and the guy in front of me is taking his sweet ol’ time, my internal self-talk immediately starts up with the negativity: “come on jerk, let’s get moving…this is not a freaking casual Sunday drive.”  “are you kidding me right now!? 19 mph in a 35?! UGHHH.” <– you get the idea.  So, at this point, I have to be strong and choose happiness again.  I try to smile, breathe deeply and remind myself that in the grand scheme of things, if I’m 2 min late because of this guy, it won’t make a difference.  And, then, I’m off to make the next choice.

The same scenario is true for humility.  Once you evaluate your current state of humility, it is your responsibility to choose to be humble or not.

So, why choose to be humble?  As a humble human being, you recognize that we are all connected, we are all fighting our own battles and we are all doing our best (hopefully) to be really good, genuine, loving people.  As a humble human being, you attempt to release your addiction to competition, you choose to build people up instead of tearing them down and you become in awe of how great this place (earth) really is – the people, the places, the experiences.  Maybe most importantly, as a humble human being, you finally stop beating yourself up.

How do we choose to be humble and keep choosing to be humble?  Here are 4 keys to unlock humility in your practice and in your life:

  1. Admit you’re not the shit.  Seriously, you’re not.  There is always someone who looks better than you, knows more than you and can do way cooler things on the yoga mat than you can do.  So remind yourself: you’re not on this planet to look good, each day you have the opportunity to learn more, experience more and yoga is not at all about what you can do on the yoga mat.  Make this an authentic admission.  This is about really, truly understanding that you are a work in progress.  We all are!  How boring would life be if we were perfect and had no reason to learn and grow?!  Remind yourself that every expert was once a beginner and this life (this yoga practice!) is a journey – it is never too late to start again and you are never too old to find humility.
  2. Embrace your weaknesses. Once you stop being motivated by ego by admitting you’re not the shit, it’s time to work on building a healthy layer of confidence.  To do so, you must confront your weaknesses and then immediately stop beating yourself up about them by outlining a plan to give ’em a positive tune up.  Ex: If you think you’re bossy, recognize this flaw and find a similar, but positive quality that you can work towards.  Bossy people tend to have a lot of the same qualities as great leaders, but they lack the ability to empathize, constantly fight perfectionism and hate to delegate.  Be aware of these pitfalls and avoid them.  Look at great leaders who inspire you – locally, internationally, alive, dead – how do/did they lead so effectively?  Turn your bossiness into leadership!  This exercise can be done for any weakness.  (it’s also an excellent way to prepare for the dreaded question during an interview “what’s your greatest weakness?”)
  3. Identify your strengths.  Take an honest look at your strengths.  Maybe even survey a few close friends/family members.  What makes you a good human being?  What are you good at?  I believe that in order to be a humble person, we must use our unique strengths, skills and qualities to make this world a better place.  For real.  You don’t have to lead the movement for world peace, but you can play a part in making the people, animals and environment around you healthier and happier.
  4. Be authentic.  As a humble human being I believe you must live authentically.  You realize you’re not the shit, you understand how to turn your weaknesses into more positive qualities and you know how to use your strengths for good.  Own it!  Be you.  Even when you find yourself intimidated, confused or scared, be humble, but confident in who you are, where you’re going and what you’re doing.  Enjoy your unique life experiences.

The Merriam-Webster may define humility as “the quality or state of not thinking you are better than other people,” but I think it’s more than that.  I think that humility is defined not only by your belief that we’re all on the same page, but also by your relationship with yourself.

Yogis, we are so lucky.  This practice is incredibly humbling.  The minute you think you’ve learned everything there is to learn about Virabhadrasana II (Warrior 2), your teacher will ask you to move subtly in the posture in a way that you’ve never moved and – BOOM! – your mind is blown.  Or, you’ll finally master Bakasana (Crow Pose) and you’ll watch a fellow yogi smoothly transition from Bakasana to Tripod Headstand, back to Bakasana and then straight through to Chaturanga Dandasana and – BOOM! – your mind is blown.  Or even more interesting, you’ll finally feel good about moving and breathing mindfully and realize that asana (the postures) are just the tip of the iceberg.  Now, it’s time to sit still and really let the magic happen with pranayama, pratyahara and dhyana.  Palms getting clammy?  Sound like a new language?  It is, and it’s okay.  Remember, this practice is a journey!  Be eager to learn more and attack it with humility.

Good luck yogis!