Have you ever noticed that when children describe what they want to be when they grow up, it is always something spectacular? They want to be a princess, an astronaut, or the president. There is never any doubt; the world is wide open to them. They do not see the limitations, only the possibilities.
This lack of limitations, and at times common sense, can get children into trouble, like the assumption that they can jump off anything and be perfectly fine. I put my parents through quite a lot. My platform of choice was the swing set and I jumped off it many times.
As we get older, we begin to experience the limitations the world imposes on us and gain some sense of self-preservation. As we do, our expectations change. We learn that gravity really does exist and that falling hurts sometimes.
This sense of self-preservation keeps us from doing crazy things that could cause us bodily harm. However, when taken too far, it restricts the scope of what we believe is possible, which reduces our willingness to extend ourselves.
One of the joys of teaching yoga is watching people experience what is possible. Many times when I demonstrate a new pose, the class’s reaction is negative, something to the effect of “I can’t” or “I’ll never be able to do that” or just laughs of disbelief. When people try the pose themselves, many find, much to their surprise, that it is possible to get into some semblance of the pose. They may not have the flexibility or strength to move into its final form, but on that first attempt they achieved more than they expected.
Balance poses tend to be viewed as pass/fail poses; they either work or they do not. Usually the more complicated the balance, the less likely there will be instant success. Repeatedly falling out of a balance can be discouraging, yet each time we fall, we learn. When we finally do succeed, the success is sweeter due to the effort it required to get there.
There are many things we cannot do on the first try. If we gave up the first time we tried to walk, none of us would be walking today. Almost anything we accomplish requires steady effort. When you find yourself saying “I can’t,” take a step back and see if this is something that probably is not wise, like jumping off a swing set, or if it may be doable like learning to walk. Many times a better phrase is “not yet.”