I read an excerpt earlier this year from a book called “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother” by Amy Chua. It ruffled some feathers in online communities, specifically those about parenting. The author proposes that her Chinese mother’s style of parenting influenced her to push her own daughter towards success. She went on to say that Asian parents assume strength in their children, not softness or weakness. They have high expectations of their children and they encourage them to perform to those expectations. She believes that her demands and discipline refined her daughter’s abilities and supported her self-confidence.
A few months later, I read an excerpt from Tara Brach’s book “Radical Acceptance: Embracing Your Life with the Heart of a Buddha.” In the second chapter, there is an anecdote which describes the Dalai Lama being shocked to learn from a panel of American psychologists that an epidemic of self-doubt plagues our modern American society. We are a culture that needs someone to believe in us. We are a culture that assumes weakness, that is burdened by such a profound sense of unworthiness that we suffer. So we turn to therapists, substances, anything to make us feel strong, to bring us back to our selves.
And I hear evidence of this all the time in countless excuses:
“I can’t do yoga because I’m not flexible enough.”
“Oh, I will never be able to do that.”
“I don’t have the patience for yoga.”
And so on.
The gift of yoga is the assumption that we are strong enough. The gift of yoga says that we are intelligent enough to find and test our own limits. We have the capacity to develop loving discipline in ourselves. We can perform feats we never thought imaginable, in any state of health, at any age.
Yoga gives us the vote of confidence we need to believe in ourselves, just like a loving parent with very high expectations.
If you were not blessed with the tough love of discipline as a child, you may find it difficult to quiet the freight train of doubt constantly running through your mind. Calm dedication to a nurturing practice can be very reassuring in our modern culture. If you are one of the few instilled with a balanced ego, a strong sense of Self, a patient temperament, and quiet resolve, consider yourself lucky. For the rest of us, there is yoga.