I Gave Up Yoga For the Goblins

Yoga prescription

I don’t know about you, but by the end of January my New Years Resolutions really start weighing me down. It’s always the same, I set my goals: “I want to do a handstand this year,” “I want to work up to a half hour of meditation,” or “I will hit my mat at least five times a week.” Then I enthusiastically work towards them, and even meet and sustain them for a time.

But then February happens. My smile becomes forced, and I come to recognise the grim reality that I need to maintain that motivation for an entire year. Sound familiar? At this point, when my resolve is at its weakest, several pairs of beady red eyes appear in the depths of my brain and I’m at the mercy of the goblins.

The goblins are those things that stand between us and our yoga mats and try to convince us that they’re more important. They disguise themselves by trying to be helpful, saying, “This is better for you in the long run,” “We just want you to be happy,” or, “You deserve to treat yourself!” and we listen to them. When our head goblins show us the smallest problem, we give up our yoga for them, even though 99% of the time yoga can help us through those problems.

The secret they don’t want you to know is that, when you pull away the façade, they’re just goofy little creatures meant to distract you. Here are a few of the more common goblins you may encounter:

The Boss Goblin

Likes: Sleepless Nights at Work, Financial Growth, Pie Charts
Dislikes: Weekends, Hobbies, Work-Life Balance
Quotes: “Do you think you could finish this by tomorrow morning?” “If this goes well, it could put you in good stead for a promotion!” “I’m counting on you.”

Workaholism has come to be seen as an honourable trait, something to aspire to, and is often recommended as a healthy and acceptable way to distract yourself from your own problems. However, even though it isn’t in the realm of social consciousness like the other famous –isms, workaholism is still an addiction. Addiction throws us off balance in our lives, and is therefore unhealthy. Many people (myself included) are tempted to give up yoga to increase our productivity, when in fact many studies recommend the opposite.

Corporate giants like Google, Apple and Procter & Gamble have implemented mindfulness and yoga programs for their employees, due to the proven benefits of yoga for productivity. A 2013 study at General Mills reported that 80% of employees found they were able to make better decisions after doing yoga at work, and 89% became better listeners. Add to that the results of another study from Yoga Journal that discovered a 33% drop in workplace stress and The Boss Goblin doesn’t seem quite so intimidating anymore.

Is a time crunch keeping you from getting on your mat? Or saying that you won’t have time to shower after? Well, studies done by Mark Williams and Danny Penman, authors of Mindfulness: A Practical Guide to Finding Peace in a Frantic World, have proven the opposite. They’ve discovered that people who engage in activities that cultivate mindfulness, like yoga, find it frees up more time than it uses because their brains are more focussed and efficient.

Will that be all, Boss Goblin? We think it might be time for you to crawl back into your cubicle.

The Food Goblin

Likes: White Wine, Black Forest Cake, Swish Candy Dishes
Dislikes: Waiting To Eat, Stomach Rumbles, Small Portion Sizes
Quotes: “I’m so full, I can barely move.” “They’ll think I’m rude if I don’t finish my plate!” “Hangover and downward dog – you do the math.”

The Food Goblin generally says one of two things: “You’re too full to do yoga,” or “You’re too hungry to do yoga.” Even when you’re having a great food day, he’ll then say, “You didn’t eat anything bad today, why not take the day off?”

Disarming the too hungry/too full argument comes down to eating foods that will fill you but aren’t calorically dense and won’t weigh you down. Over at No Meat Athlete, Matt Frazier’s formula is to have a smoothie for breakfast, a salad for lunch, and whatever he fancies for dinner. The theory is that the first two meals of the day should keep you full, but light enough to move comfortably, and that those choices will inherently encourage a healthy supper.

Another way to fight the Gluttony Goblin is to listen to him. Accept that you may be too full or too hungry, and get on your mat anyway. Practising yoga brings your awareness to your body and breath, and that awareness will tell you where your body can and can’t go that day. That’s not a failure, our bodies are constantly shifting and changing and it’s unreasonable to expect that our bodies will be ready for peak performance every time we unroll our mat.

The Fear Goblin

Likes: Self-Doubt, Panic Attacks, Evil Clowns
Dislikes: Meditation, Fun, Massage Therapy
Quotes: “See that girl at the front of the room? That’s what you’re supposed to look like.” “You’re not flexible enough, you’ll snap.” “If you haven’t started doing yoga by now, you’ll never be any good, dear.”

The Fear Goblin, some scientists call him your Inner Critic, hangs out in the stress centre of your brain just waiting to hit you when you’re down. He points out that person in a perfect Standing Split, while you’re trying to celebrate touching your toes. He’s the one who promises to keep us safe as long as we stay in our little box and don’t take any risks – because if we don’t try, we don’t have to fear failure.

Susan Jeffers’ book Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway doesn’t even wait to be bought before advising us here. In it, she announces that “THE ONLY WAY TO GET RID OF THE FEAR OF DOING SOMETHING IS TO GO OUT AND DO IT.” Yes, it was important enough that she wrote it in all capitals.

So take a risk. Do something you’ve never done before. In Dr. Spencer Johnson’s allegorical story Who Moved My Cheese the main character, Haw, explores what it means to identify and accept change. “What would you do if you weren’t afraid?” he asks us. To you, that could mean dusting off that yoga mat after months of neglect. It could mean transitioning from Bridge Pose to Upward Facing Bow. It could even mean jumping up into your first handstand. And what if you fall? Haw answers this as well. After discovering how exhilarating it was to face his fears, he wrote on the wall:

…and the Fear Goblin hates that.

Over To You

That’s an overview of just some of the goblins that we give up yoga for, but now that we can recognize them, we can look them in the face and say, “I gave up yoga for you once, but I’m not going to do it anymore.”

Here’s a challenge for you. Next time you find yourself putting off your time on the mat, ask yourself which goblin you’re fighting right now. Is it one on the list? Is it one I didn’t mention? See if you can try something new: instead of giving up your yoga for the goblins, try giving up the goblins for yoga!

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