Letting Go of Judgment

I recently had a great conversation with one of my yoga students.  Well, I actually have lots of those, but I’ve been thinking about this particular one for a while since.

My student shared with me that, until she tried a Curvy Yoga class, she had no idea how much time and energy in her yoga practice was caught up in judgment.  She shared that she often felt like an outsider in other classes — whether through others’ looks or comments or the class not offering what she needed.  She then said that it was incredible to be able to be in a space where she felt she could let that go and just be present and do her practice.

I found this to be such a lovely reminder of the power of tuning in to our own bodies and seeing what comes up — where you encounter physical resistance but also mental and emotional.  Noticing if you’re constantly wondering if the class is almost over.  Thinking about your to-do list or what a friend said earlier in the day.  Wondering what you’re going to have for dinner after class (or maybe that’ just me…).

I have, of course, been in my student’s shoes many times in various classes (yep, even to this day!).  But our conversation also made me think about the many times that I’m judging myself during my practice — regardless of where I am.  Heck, it even happens when I’m practicing on my own at home!

For me, letting go of judgement is a multi-layered process.  The external yields, albeit slowly, to the internal.  And the more I’m able to do it, even if briefly, the better able I am to recognize and cultivate it in the future.  Another interesting aspect of this is that the more I can do it on the mat, the more I find myself doing it off the mat.  I’m usually a delayed reaction kind of gal (as in, it may take me a few days — at best — to figure out that I’ve let go of some judgment in a particular situation), but that still works for me.  Guess it’s part of the judgment I need to let go.

This is something I’m very much mulling over these days, and I’d love to hear your thoughts.  What does letting go of judgment in your yoga practice — on and/or off the mat — mean/look like for you?

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  • http://www.DoRestorativeYoga.com Sara

    We are trained from a young age to be judgmental – of ourselves (I’ll never be good enough), of others (I’d never do that), of ideas (Why would someone even think of that?), even of structures (I wouldn’t have built that house like that, etc). So yucky and yet such a hard thing to un-learn.

    • Anna Guest-Jelley

      Such a great point, Sara. It really is complex, isn’t it? That’s one of the things that’s sometimes equally interesting and painful to me — looking at the many ways judgment infuses my life and taking the time (which sometimes feels like forever!) to even try to approach judgment without judgment (which sounds a little convoluted but requires quite a bit of attention — at least for me!).

  • http://stableroots.wordpress.com Brija

    I’m glad that for me it is easy to not be judgemental when I’m doing my home practice on my own. In a class is another story! I realised a while ago how draining of energy it is to worry about what others are doing so now I try to wish them well and let them be. If I’m feeling anxious or like an outsider it is especially important, it helps me feel like I belong in that group of people. I find that critical thoughts soften when I wish others well, even difficult people.

    • Samantha

      Yoga has helped me come so far in terms of self-judgment. Before my first class, I had my mom watch me do a part of a yoga dvd to tell me if I looked absolutely ridiculous. Of course, she thought I was crazy. Self-judgment now tends to come out in defensiveness and competitiveness. When I’m feeling insecure, I sometimes interpret innocent comments or adjustments as being reactions to my weight. I do know when this happens and it is something that is getting better, and I know to work on it. Letting go of judgment to me can be easily seen in what I wear and how I act. The first sleeveless yoga top I wore was a clear indication of letting go of judgment. Moving my mat into the front of the room instead of hiding in a corner was another big step.

      • Anna Guest-Jelley

        Love this, Samantha! It can be so cool to notice our thought processes and how we’re shifting. I’m so thankful for these concrete examples that you shared because sometimes it can be hard to conceptualize what letting go of judgment can actually look like.

    • Anna Guest-Jelley

      How beautiful, Brija! I love the idea of wishing your fellow students well and imagining yourself in community with them. Thanks so much for sharing this!

      • http://www.teachergoesbacktoschool.wordpress.com Tami (Teacher Goes Back to School)

        when i find myself somewhere other than on my own mat in class i’ll do one of three things:

        close my eyes – if i’ve been comparing myself to others in the room. that’s what makes blindfolded yoga so freeing for me because it takes me back to my mat and my own business.

        open my eyes – if my mind keeps taking me out of the room, i’ll focus my attention on something IN the room

        go into child’s pose – to have a little chat with myself in the most humbling position – forehead on the floor.

        • http://www.curvyyoga.com Anna Guest-Jelley

          I love this SO much, Tami! Way to bring some fabulous concrete suggestions to the table — thanks!

  • http://yourpartnersinkind.blogspot.com Cynthia

    I do two yoga classes a week. The first is on Mondays and its at a studio with a “yoga-body” teacher and I’m the only overweight person in a Very small class (like 3 – 4 people). The second class I go to is on Saturdays and its at a private residence. The class is always FULL (6 – 8 people) and the teacher as well as all the students are all curvy (including the men).

    The first class I get a good work out because I really push myself to do everything like the other girls do so I dont look like the fatty that cant keep up. I feel accomplished because I am able to try new positions and go through all the movements but I worry because it’s probably not the best mentality to have going into a yoga class. I struggle between ‘Am I doing this of myself or the other people in the room’.

    The second class is slower and we take a lot more time with the poses. I still sweat and feel like I”m getting a work out but its more restorative than weight loss. I’m not ever thinking about anyone else in this class. Its very mind centering and personal and I’m able to breath into full poses like I have never been able to before (like resting my hand on the floor in triangle pose). I feel a sense of serenity in this class and accomplishment in the individual poses I am able to do instead of the class as a whole.

    I keep going back to both classes because they both offer me different yoga experiences and I like that but I think its easier to clear my mind when I’m not worrying about how others are viewing me. And this mind clutter is AFTER already losing almost 70 lbs. I’ll have to try some of the suggestions here in the comments to try and quiet those thoughts.

    Always LOVE your blog, Thanks so much to writing it!

  • http://letitgo8.blogspot.com Thais

    it’s definitely difficult not to judge but i have found that when i meet myself right where i am, there is a spaciousness there where i can finally just breathe and be ok. its rare and far in between but someday i will be able to attain that peace all the time. because judgement is just a small voice inside of me, it is not ALL of me.

  • http://www.ZoNewell.com Zo Newell

    YS I:33 mentions upeksanam as one of the four cardinal practices of kriya yoga. “Upeksanam” is often translated as indifference, or the avoidance of “sinners” or bad actors. In my mind, though, it’s strongly related to the idea of nonjudgment: the conscious choice not to get entangled in negative thoughts about another person’s behavior, or about myself. Upeksanam is not only a great tool for interpersonal harmony, but a meditative technique, one of the processes by which we can move away from distraction. We all have judgmental thoughts; they’re part of the way the mind works. The “yoga” lies in recognizing them and nipping them in the bud. Kudos to Curvy Yoga for providing a space that supports clarity and presence, and success to all students in their efforts to remain mindful.

  • http://biggirlbombshell.com Jules Big Girl Bombshell

    I am finding this judgement combined with a huge fear factor is stopping me from even starting. Yoga is something I know intuitively that I need but the fear and judgement have a much larger voice right now.

  • Anna Guest-Jelley

    Oh, I love this, Zo! I really appreciate you sharing your wisdom about this here. Kudos right back to you for making the sutras accessible. You rock!

  • Anna Guest-Jelley

    I totally hear this, Jules. Fear and judgment can be such a powerful combination — or at least have been in my life. The only way that I’ve been able to process this is just to give myself as much mental space as possible — to practice, to not practice, to sit and take three breaths, etc. I hope the same for you in however that might look for your uniquely fabulous self. Big ♥ to you!