How often do we take the time to think before we speak? Better yet, how often do we actually listen to our own words before moving on to the next thought?
Those questions certainly have useful application to our daily lives. There are countless spiritual books, such as the “Four Agreements” that stress taking a half-second pause to truly think before letting words exit your mouth.
Thinking about your words takes on even greater significance when you’re a yoga teacher. People choose to take time out of their daily lives to listen what we have to say, so it’s best not to waste their time with meaningless fluff or updates on what you ate for breakfast.
I’m blessed (or cursed) with a mind that often moves quicker than than that half-second filter and the words can pour out.
Recently I noticed during my classes I kept using the word “just” over and over again while I taught.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with the word “just” — the adjective form that helps portray something that’s morally fair is quite useful. Rather, it’s the adverb form of “just” that … well … just often serves as a placeholder word more often than not.
Often I’d find myself leading a warm-up or kriya — which can be uncommon when students are used to holding poses or only flowing through gym vinyasa sequences — saying something like, “just to loosen up the hips.” I felt like I needed to justify what we we’re doing before we got to something more intense or Instagram-worthy.
The more I thought about, the more I realized how casual use of a simple four-letter word like “just” limited myself.
More than that, if the teacher thinks we’re doing something just to get somewhere else, how much value could it have to the students in the class?
One of the most-useful lessons I learned during my 200-hour Pranakriya training program came after the first weekend when our homework assignment focused on the Yamas and Niyamas, which begin with the non-violence of Ahimsa. I’d never considered that my words could cause violence to myself. The note in the manual about “eliminating negative self talk” has been underlined by me countless times and helped me grow on-and-off the mat.
In a sense, my use of “just” throughout my classes could be seen as a form of Ahimsa. Better yet, it could be seen as a learning experience or a way to practice the foundational yama.
On a more-practical level, it’s valuable to listen to yourself as you teach. Identify your speech patterns or crutch words that don’t add value to the class, or places where simple silence would be more beneficial.
Above all, just remember to take a moment before you speak.
Mike Cardillo, RYT-200, lives and teaches yoga in Connecticut. He believes yoga is more than simply making shapes with your body.
He can be reached at yogawithmikeCT [at] gmail.com or found at Facebook.com/yogawithmikeCT