Back to Basics – No Substitution

I showed up to my favorite yin yoga class last night only to find my favorite, calm yin teacher was out, and in her place was a teacher with a very different style.

I’m not one who usually makes a big deal out of there being a substitute for life experiences, and especially for a yoga teacher, but I was really looking forward to class with this one particular teacher.

Now I know we are not supposed to enter into a place of judgement when in yoga, but I did a little at first because this substitute didn’t ease us into the practice the way the regular teacher does. And the substitute didn’t have that soothing voice that the regular teacher has, so I was a little jolted by this initial experience.

Once we went into our first pose, I was able to relax the judgement a bit and remain more present with my body and breath.

But this substitute really brought some significant realizations to the surface about how we go about our lives sometimes trying to substitute one thing for another, even when the substitution doesn’t feel right or natural.

Do any of you remember the low-fat potato chips that were out in the mid to late 90s and were made with olestra? My friends and I indulged to say the least. We’d pick up bags of them for movie nights, or for when we were all just getting together to hang out. We thought they were heaven in a bag!

Until we found out what olestra really was and that it often gave the consumer gastrointestinal complications and pains. We stopped eating them immediately for fear that our intestines would fall out of our bodies if we continued to feast on these poor excuses for potato chips!

No substitution for the real thing, that’s for sure.

And then there was the no-fat salad dressing craze that I never bought into. I just couldn’t. It made the lettuce squeaky against my teeth, so I have committed myself to not substituting for the real thing. It’s just not a good idea, and I tend to make my own dressings or use olive oil anyways, but the substitution in this situation was just no good.

I have to also admit that I’ve tried substituting having a boyfriend in the past with just my everyday guy friends. They didn’t know I was doing it (well, they might now if they read this), but it was great! The stress was low, I could fully show up as myself, I could be silly, dress up if I wanted to, and they would still like me! We would go out for dinner, drinks, go to the movies, watch football, and do all of the things couples would do, except without the couply part.

I knew what I was doing, and in fact told a couple of my girlfriends that I was “dating” my guy friends without telling them, but it really wasn’t like the real thing. It’s nice to have a best friend to come home to, who you can snuggle with and have that deeper shared emotional intimacy that you share together. It’s also nice to have the other person know you are in the relationship and not have it be just one-sided, like I was doing.

It seems through all of these anecdotes that the substitutions were never quite as good as the real thing, and while that is mostly true, the fact is that each substitution provided a new experience. And none of the experiences were good or bad – they just were.

The olestra potato chips were probably the first we’d had that were not the typical chip, and opened us up to paying attention to what we were putting into our bodies. The fat free dressing made me look at what I liked and what made something fat free, and what were they adding instead to give it flavor. Could I do without the added junk and make something better with full fat, but without all of the chemicals? And “dating” my guy friends allowed me to get to know them in a new way, a way I hadn’t experienced them before, and with some, we got even closer.

Yoga last night was no different – it was a whole new experience that I clearly needed to have because it forced me to be more present with what I was taking away from the class.

Beyond recognizing that substitutions are simply just a new experience, I also took away the fact that I’m grateful for every day I can move my body and go to a place where I get a full hour to just focus on me! How often do we say that in our day?

And truly, when we focus on ourselves, there really is no other substitution for that.

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