I’ve been thinking a lot about authenticity lately.
As a yoga student and teacher, I’m used to hearing these phrases in yoga classes: “take the variation of the posture that best fits your body in this moment”, “honor where your body is at”, “listen to your body”, “do what you can”, “take what you need from the posture and let the rest go”.
These phrases are all asking us one thing: be your most authentic self, asana to asana, moment to moment.
Every time you choose a pose on your mat, you have the opportunity to express your most authentic self in that moment.
In The Gifts of Imperfection, Brene Brown defines authenticity as “the daily practice of letting go of who we think we’re supposed to be and embracing who we are.”
Practicing authenticity on my mat means being aware of what is and of what I wish would be (the shoulds, the ideals), and to remain accepting and non-judgemental to both. Shoulds and desires may show up, giving me an opportunity to acknowledge them and to hold space for them without letting them make me feel less than in any way.
What gets in the way of authenticity?
In my own practice, I have noticed that my biggest barrier to authenticity is the comparison mindset--that automatic setting that pulls me to a place where I compare myself with others. Once my mind is in a space of comparisons, most decisions I make are inauthentic. I judge where I am “better than” and “worse than”, and I oftentimes end up pushing through poses as if my worthiness depended on it.
To make matters worse, when I notice myself in this comparison mindset, I judge myself for falling into the trap once more. I judge myself for judging.
The comparison mindset leaves me feeling “behind” in some way. As if I am not where I should be.
Our patterns on the mat mirror our patterns off the mat. Which means that if I’m struggling with authenticity because of falling into the comparison mindset, then I am probably practicing this same pattern off my mat.
Thankfully, self-compassion helps overcome this vicious cycle and fuels authenticity.
How can I practice authenticity on my mat?
Practicing authenticity on my mat means noticing when I feel “not good enough” and to meet that not-enoughness with self-compassion.
Handstands oftentimes challenge my authenticity. Each time I fall out of a handstand, “shoulds” come up for me: “I’ve been practicing for so long, I should be able to….”.
In practicing authenticity, I have to be as authentic as I can be in that moment and acknowledge the “shoulds” that come up and respond with self-compassion:
“Handstands are really challenging for you. It is frustrating to keep falling, but remember that everyone struggles with frustration. Just keep trying, doing the best that you can right now.”
As Jon Acuff says, ‘“Don’t compare your beginning with someone else’s middle’”.
Authenticity is challenging but worth it.
Sometimes I daydream of a time when I won’t fall into the comparison mindset anymore. I imagine myself as a wise older woman, less bothered by “shoulds” and living much more authentically.
Part of me wants to fast-forward to that older, wiser me just to get a taste of authenticity. But I realize that there is no way to rush the process.
If I fast-forward, my insecurities would still be there. Lessons would remain unlearned. I would be older but still be reaching for permission to bare my authentic self.
That’s why I love Brene’s definition of authenticity as “a daily practice”. There is no destination but rather an ongoing process.
Accepting authenticity as a daily practice is something that I am still learning. I know that I hold back oftentimes because I think that eventually I’ll be enough to then show up and be seen.
So I remind myself:
It all comes back to trust. Stand your sacred ground and trust that you are fueled by sacred timing. Practice authenticity. Just as you are right now. Doing your best with what you have in this moment.
You’re worthy right now (5)
Practice authenticity (7)
Trust sacred timing (5)
Is there a place where you feel not good enough on your mat? Is there a "should" that comes up for you often while practicing? Do you tend to compare some particular aspect of your practice with others?
Look for patterns with curiosity and notice them with acceptance. These are patterns that you’re likely practicing off the mat as well. Stay aware of these patterns while on your mat and when they come up offer yourself compassion.