When I first began yoga way back in the last century, a group of us decided to attend a Big La-Tee-Dah Yoga Workshop being taught by a Big La-Tee-Dah Yoga Instructor. We were initially very excited as we signed up and paid the big bucks. But as the date approached, our excitement turned to deep anxiety. We were new to this yoga thing and not terribly experienced. Would we be good enough? What if they did some poses that I’ve never done? Headstand!? Handstand!? What would the other students think if I were to crash to the floor? Could we manage to complete the sessions without humiliating ourselves? How can I navigate this dangerous, deadly yoga workshop nightmare without losing the last few shreds of self-esteem that I have? We can’t do this! I want my money back!!
Aaaah, the sweet taste of complete and utter panic. I realized I was spinning out of control from the terror of not being good enough or smart enough or thin enough or whatever enough. Even back then, I understood that a disturbed mind would be a distinct obstacle if I wanted to actually learn something from a world-class teacher. If I’m so caught up in how I’m appearing to others, I’ll lose the capacity to truly listen and study. I needed a new mind set, a new perspective. As Einstein once said, A problem cannot be solved from the same consciousness that created it. And with that in mind, I made a mental shift and a dazzling new philosophy was born. Instead of the typical fretting over being the smartest one in the room, or the funniest, or the most successful, I went in an all new direction. And thus, these words of wisdom were coined: There’s a very real possibility that I may be the suckiest one in the room. And I’m okay with that.
My Suckiest-One-in-the-Room Philosophy was a big hit with my yoga buds. We had a laugh and I discovered a new, refreshing perspective. When I abandon the tendency to judge myself or compare myself to others, I can relax. When I take my ego out of the equation, anxiety dissolves and I am free from the incessant drone of my insecurity. I’m just showing up with all the other yogis and rolling out my mat and doing the best I can at this point in time. If I have the crappiest pose in the room, well, that’s okay with me. Do I suck? You bet I do! Thanks for noticing! Namaste!
This revelatory concept, later known as the Hoover Sutra, has been invoked on many occasions since that first fateful workshop. (As it happened, we all survived nicely and developed major crushes on Rodney Yee, Yogi Stud of the Universe 2001. He even called me by name and whispered in my ear to soften my hyper extending elbows in Downward Dog. I almost collapsed with ecstasy.) When I traveled to India in 2004 to study with the Iyengar family, there were close to 500 students in the ginormous hall and I was obediently sucking right in the front row.
I realize that one must be mindful to avoid Hoover Sutra abuse. I don’t want to become so comfortable in the Suckiest One role that I neglect to grow or improve.
By the same token, I don’t want to effort so hard that I snap a hamstring to compete with my Gumby neighbor. Balancing the fine line between the yoga philosophical tenets of Effort (tapas) and Contentment (santosha) is a subtle and intriguing practice. Too much Effort leads to egoism and injury. Too much Contentment leads to dullness and stagnation.
So practice the wisdom of Yogashanan’s Hoover Sutra with discernment! When you notice you’re comparing and demeaning yourself with all your perceived inadequacies, try adjusting your consciousness to consider the delight of being the Suckiest One. Lighten up. Have a gentle laugh at your sense of self-importance and accept where you are in this moment in time. With the companions of Effort and Contentment by your side, establish your own best practice. And if anyone says you suck, thank them. And feel free to quote the Hoover Sutra.