Dear Physically Gifted People,
Please stop using words like “easy” or “simple” when doing a demo, teaching a student or posting a video or picture. Why? It is too subjective. Just because something is easy for you does not mean it is easy for someone else. Using the words “simple” or easy, with a student who finds the movement to be difficult, can make them feel like there is something wrong with them, that their efforts will never be good enough, and that they are inadequate. It can make them feel shame and question whether or not yoga is for them.
I understand that this is not happening on purpose. In most cases, physically gifted people are genuinely trying to help. That, indeed, the movement is “easy” and “simple”……for them. Trust me. I have, in a state of unawareness, used “simple” and “easy” to refer to a pose, too. There are definitely movements that I have had to work on for years to achieve and movements that I picked up on right away. I understand, that in some cases, I am the outlier. If I pay attention, the universe gives me signs that I am an anomaly.
People laugh when I say “easy”, “simple” or “just do this.”
The average yoga student in the average yoga class finds it difficult or unattainable. Many times, the average yoga student does not sign up for “How to float” or “How to Put Your Leg Behind Your Head” or a “Seven Sisters Headstand” workshop. It is too intimidating or it is so far out of their wheel house that they feel it is a waste of time. Usually, the people who sign up for intermediate or advanced workshops, are people who feel they are close to being able to do the movement or people who know that the movement is coming up in their already advanced yoga practice. Sometimes, it was cheaper to pay for the whole workshop instead of paying for individual sessions.
I find that, the people who show up for daily yoga practice, are a better representative of the average yoga student. I pay attention to what the average yoga student finds to be difficult.
People pay an exorbitant amount of money to learn a skill. I would not pay to learn how to turn on my stove. That is easy. However, I would pay a chef to teach me a technique that I struggle with; to teach me a technique that does not come easy to me.
When I post on social media, I get more likes than usual. For me, I get the most likes and comments on social media when a pose I post, is seen as difficult. I get way less likes for Warrior 1 (unless It is out in nature and in that case, nature is getting the likes not me) than I do for an arm balance. Comment below if this does not hold true for you.
In general, I cannot think of a situation where the words “simple” or “easy” are necessary when teaching yoga to the general population or posting on the internet. It is one thing if you are working with a regular student and you know for sure that certain movements are easy for them. However, “easy” and “simple” are, more often than not, used when trying to convince a new student, a general audience or people on social media, that they should try something. In this case, you don’t know what is “easy” for someone and the term can cause more harm than good.
Shanna Small has been practicing Ashtanga Yoga and studying the Yoga Sutras since 2001. She has studied in Mysore with Sharath Jois and is the Director of AYS Charlotte, a school for traditional Ashtanga in Charlotte NC. She has written for Yoga International and the Ashtanga Dispatch. Go here for more information on AYS Charlotte. For information on workshops, please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.