Here’s how to deal with your people pleasing tendencies in yoga. First, understand why you’re at yoga, why you’re doing yoga. Doing yoga is about integrating all parts of ourselves and understanding ourselves better. It’s a moving meditation that gives us information. That’s why you hear yoga instructors telling you to “just notice” if you have stiffness for instance or if one side is easier than the other or if one pose is easier this week than last. It’s all just noticing and then subconsciously incorporating the information.
It’s your practice. That’s another thing that yoga instructors say quite a bit. Next time you’re doing yoga, notice whether you are fully embracing that it’s your practice. Being that it’s your own practice, that means that you can really do whatever you want during yoga class as long as you remain respectful toward the others in the class and the instructor. Instructors often tell us to modify poses, skip poses, or add poses as needed to tailor the practice to what we need.
So next time you’re in yoga class, notice if you are striving to do the poses exactly like the instructor is directing. Are you pushing your body past where you need to be physically? If so … why? Are you trying to impress the instructor or others in the class. If you struggle with people-pleasing, notice if you get uncomfortable when you’re doing something different than what the rest of the class is doing. This is your practice and your reason for doing yoga is to notice these things.
If you have people-pleasing tendencies, try doing movements that are different than the instructor directs and notice if you get uncomfortable. Just notice it. Play with the edge of being in your comfort zone and out of it. Yoga is ideal for this because this is the whole point of it and good instructors actually encourage this type of exploration.
Many treat yoga as a time to conform rather than explore. Try exploring instead. Try laying in savasana for an entire class. If that’s what you need to integrate spirit, mind, and body, then that’s yoga and you’re making the most of your practice. When you’re laying in savasana and the rest of the class is moving through poses, notice why that makes you uncomfortable. Is it because you feel weak? As if you can’t do the poses? Is it because you feel left out? Is it because you think the instructor will think you can’t do the poses?
If you’re a man, try taking off your shirt. Does it make you uncomfortable that the women in the class might be judging you because they can’t go topless in current society? If you’re a woman and used to showing up in yoga pants and sports bra, try showing up in baggy pants and a tshirt. If you’re used to showing up in baggy pants and a shirt, try showing up in a sports bra.
All these things are queues to notice what makes us uncomfortable and push into those areas and since yoga’s purpose is to notice, meditate, and integrate, it is an ideal place to dive into what we are doing for the sake of others and what we are doing for ourselves.