You’re sitting alone in your living room, taking an online yoga class, and as the teacher guides you to draw your arms overhead and bend to the right, you decide to close your eyes and slightly tilt your head to the side. On the next instruction, maybe you don’t fold forward as deeply as you know your body can. Are you cheating?
The beauty of taking an online class allows all of us to continue to be together with a shared focus, and it also offers people a great deal of independence in how to participate. So, what do you think in the above scenario? Would you consider a person’s partial movement in a stretch to be cheating?
Here’s my short answer: no—not cheating. (Eating a luscious chocolate cake while on a diet, then yeah, maybe you’re cheating a bit. But in the previous scenario, I don’t think so.) You are responsible for wherever you want your practice to take you, and you will enjoy the fruits of the movement you choose to perform. A teacher provides guidance, taking the lead, but you decide how far you want to move at all times.
One of my yoga students recently joked that I couldn’t see her “cheats” on Zoom since I wasn’t able to see her practice, and I laughed and shared that if she wasn’t mirroring my image, I would 100% appreciate that she was listening to her own body. Every little bit of love that you offer your body and all efforts made in that area (however small) are worthy of a high five.
Yoga is not about forcing your body into the “perfect” asana; it is about the beautiful journey your body takes to move where it’s supposed to go—and that’s always up to you. Where you land is where you’re meant to go. The journey there is as important as the destination, and each person creates his or her own journey.
There are moments when you may feel like extending a bit more in a stretch, challenging your body to go deeper, and there are also moments where you may choose to take a lighter path. Be attentive to the cues your body sends and strive to not only listen to it, but also act on what it needs (just go easy if it’s pointing to chocolate cake).