To "No" is to Know
Often more difficult than any effort of doing is the utterance of two simple letters: “N O.”
Somewhere along the line we’ve forgotten the power of the word … the honesty in the answer, No. Any two year old will tell you it’s a magical word harnessing and preserving your uniqueness, while creating space to explore what is important and valuable to you. (Well, maybe they wouldn’t say it like that … but I’m pretty sure that’s what they’d mean.) We’ve grown up to be people pleasers (more often pleasing people other than ourselves) always on the search to say and do what is perceived as appropriate more often than what is inner-directed.
As a Teacher I’m extremely comfortable with receiving, NO, as a response. “No, I don’t understand the question.” “No, I wouldn’t like to do that movement.” “No, I don’t feel THAT in my body,” and so on. In fact it’s been said that I almost invite the response in hopes of exploring topics more deeply. If I’m honest I think that part of my teaching is a result of attemtpting to process my discomfort with divulging that “No, I didn’t understand the question.” “No, I didn’t want to do that movement.” And most importantly, “No, I didn’t feel that in my body.” I was accustomed (and it was a huge part of my self-identification) to be the smart, good mover, with body awareness. I just hadn’t matured enough to soften into accepting I didn’t have all the answers, but maybe someone in my community did? I continue to work on that. Likewise I don’t know that I’ve met enough teachers that invite unique exploration into their teaching. I mean, we hear frequently that “No question is a dumb question,” but yet how many of us, as teachers and coaches, are actively creating dialogue that invites our students and clients to challenge (read: UNDERSTAND) what we’ve said rather than affirm what we’ve said? (e.g., “Do you notice your body moving any differently? How so?” vs. “Oh wow, look how much better your pelvis is moving. Doesn’t it feel better now?”)
The power of “No” has potential in a lot of facets throughout your life, but let’s explore three that are specifically movement related. The first being in Movement Experiences. When I say Movement Experiences I mean exercises, stretches, play, sport, etc.. How many times have you been instructed to, and then done, an exercise or stretch, or whatever, that you knew wasn’t good for your bod … but you did it anyway? Maybe you knew your back felt notably poopy (that’s a clinical term) that day but instead of standing your ground you just went ahead and did that extension. Maybe the exercise felt SEVERAL levels ahead of where you know you are, but ya’ complied and did it. Maybe it’s an exercise that you just hate … but you grinned and bared it. Why? Why did you give away your power like that? You could have said, “No.” Which, by the way, is a very different answer than saying, “I can’t.” I can’t implies that you’ve already experienced defeat. No is a valid self-expression of power that can be followed up with: I feel like I need more preparatory work. Or I feel like that’s not the best movement for my spine at this point. Or ya’ know what, I hate that exercise! Is there something else I can do to achieve a similar result? (Which would hopefully evolve into a conversation about why you hate that movement, and can we shift that relationship?)
The second place to use NO is during Questions of Understanding. “Does this exercise/statement make sense to you?” “Do you feel that change?” “Does this feel better like this?” NO! No, it does not. No, I do not. And just … No. It comes down to your intention. There’s a very different energy in being contrarian versus being inquisitive. Saying, "No" just to say No is a sure fire way to become “that client.” Asking No is a solid way to become an Instructor’s favorite client. Revealing that there is a gap in knowledge invites someone with more knowledge to share that knowledge. It’s a vulnerable experience to admit that you haven’t quite grasped “it” yet. (When I say this I say this to myself as much as to anyone else reading) Give yourself a break because you’re not expected to know everything … just be curious. Knowing how vulnerable that position is, Instructors, how can you purposefully create a space for your clients to dive into that vulnerability while retaining respect and empathy so that your knowledge comes across as sincere and generous rather than required?
Lastly, and possibly most importantly, just say NO to Self-Talk. We are our own worst critics, and the biggest hurdle to overcome. Clients, here’s an inside tip: A good (and I mean a really really good) instructor is watching less of the technical aspects of your movement, and experiencing more of how much you do/n’t enjoy the movement they’ve just presented for your exploration. Your body and expressions of movement don’t lie. If you’re having a good time, enjoying the experience, and you feel like you’re moving well … you probably are. If it feels crappy, that’s because you’re probably moving … well … crappy. Just say, “No” to all those questions of “Am I doing this right?” “Is she doing this right, ‘cause we’re moving differently and one of us is wrong, so who’s right?” And those self-reflections of “I can’t.” “I can’t move like that.” “I can’t do that.” “This will never work, because I can't _____!” Maybe not now, but maybe soon you'll be able to _____. Instead of being consumed with self-talk let the movement prove you right or wrong. From there we can explore how to get you where you’d like to be next. But today, let’s just honestly move and see what comes up.
See, NO leads to Know. If you’d like to know your body better, know an exercise better, know a bit of knowledge and theory better … say and receive, NO, more frequently. That powerful honest response should lead both you and your teacher to a richer dialogue that invites exploration of what it means for you to experience your body and its space more fully. As an Instructor invite in the answer, NO … you never know where it’ll lead you, but it’s always somewhere extra-ordinary.
by James Crader