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The Right Kind of Tough

Sep 30, 2021

“Tori, can you demonstrate Triangle for the rest of the class?” she asked. And, I felt a glow of pride at the request. 

Yoga over the past three years had become my refuge – helping me recover from my eating disorder, releasing the constant stress and pressure from working towards my career goals as a professional actress, and helping me to become stronger in ways I hadn’t even known I was weak. 

The other dozen or so students in class turned toward my mat and I stepped into position.

“Are you seeing what I’m seeing? That is exactly how not to do Triangle Pose,” the teacher said, continuing to point out every part of the posture I had failed to perform correctly in the moment. 

My heart sank.

But, years of auditions, callbacks, performances that went well and those that bombed completely, helped me to hide my initial reaction of embarrassment, shock, and… let’s face it, heartbreak.

 I made it through the rest of class, trying to shrink from the teacher’s view, so as not to get called out again. But, when I finally made it to the privacy of my car the tears spilled down my cheeks.

Did I learn more about Triangle Pose that day? Yup. Would I ever take that teacher’s class again? Nope.

I’m sure there was some reasoning in their mind as to why they should do what they did – to push me further, or knock me down a peg. Or, honestly, it probably had nothing to do with me at all, but what they felt they had to do as an instructor to show their power and control over the class. But, none of that matters.

That teacher had no idea I had spent over half my life criticizing and abusing my body. Or, how hard I am on myself to this day. In fact, they barely knew me at all. Which is why it should never have even happened.

This past summer, now over a decade later, I was offered some feedback from an instructor I was working with. Please know I LOVE feedback. It helps you become an even better instructor, try new things, rethink aspects of your teaching that you hadn’t taken notice of before… feedback is the best.

And, the feedback they offered was well thought out and helped me the way it should. It was there to shape me into something better. Except for one comment that I deleted twenty-four hours later. 

The feedback? I was too kind to my students and gave them too many compliments.

I took a class to try it out. I offered less compliments and more fine-tuned corrections. But, it wasn’t me. It felt like all of the joy was sucked right out of the practice. So, I’ve put that comment aside for now.

Most people will tell you I’m not the kind of yoga teacher to tell you everything is awesome or beautiful when it isn’t. My students will tell you that. When you receive a compliment, you deserved it.

At the same time, there’s the right kind of tough. 

So, whether you’re a yoga instructor, a student, or really just anyone on planet Earth, to assume you know someone’s whole story and think they can take whatever you dish out, is wrong. Everyone’s got something they deal with or work to move past.

And, if they came to yoga to work through it. They should be in safe, accepting hands.

We all should be. I know kindness is a big buzz word right now, but there’s a reason for it. Your words and actions have the power to build others up to their full potential or tear them down bit by bit.

Talk about ideas, not people. Never knock off someone’s crown and always fix it when it’s crooked. The world needs a gentleness we have yet to even grasp. But, the best realization is that it starts with us as individuals. And, all we have to do is roll up our sleeves and do the work.

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