First published by a British poet in 1837, the story of Goldilocks is over 175 years old! Easy to dismiss because of its age as well as its status as a children's fairytale, the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears has a lot to offer. Did you know that the Goldilocks Principle is a metaphor used by astro-biologists to explain the narrow margins of acceptable climatology required to sustain life as we know it? Cognitive scientist and developmental psychologists use it to explain the cognitive capacity of infants. Even economists use this principle to explain economic growth patterns of moderation and inflation. Yes, all of these situations require a climate that is "just right" for optimal, sustainable results.
One of the more interesting aspects of the Goldilocks perplexity is that we are not privy to the experience of her choice (or anyone else's for that matter!). We know that she found a bowl of porridge that was not too hot and not too cold. She found a bowl of porridge that was just right...for her. We know the bed she chose was not too hard and not too soft. She found a bed that was just right...for her. I'd say Goldilocks was a self-actualized woman who knew what she wanted! And this is the heart of the story for me.
Imagine a yoga class filled with different shapes, sizes and abilities. It is an evening class and all participants have come to class carrying various aspects of their day and their life with them onto their mats. The woman in the corner has a shoulder injury from playing a sport in high school. The shoulder healed well enough, but still bothers her in certain positions. The man in the front of the room is a runner with a self-limiting knee problem that only hurts when he kneels for too long, which he is willing to do to maintain the perfect pose. And the student on the mat by the door walked in late because she stayed a few minutes later at work trying to tie up loose ends and then decided to try to make yoga class instead and then sat at an extra long light on her way to the studio. Distracted and flustered, she tries to become present. She usually takes advanced positions in every pose but today she feels tired, overworked and preoccupied.
The instructor invites the class into triangle pose. What does this pose look like with a shoulder injury? What does this pose mean for a knee issue? How does this pose feel for an overworked and distracted student? This is the moment when Goldilocks guides the way.
The instructor guides your practice but is not privy to your experience as you flow into and out of each pose. You must decide on the expression of a pose that is just right...for you. Not too much effort, yet not too little effort, either. We are searching for what feels just right physically, mentally and emotionally. This changes from day to day and from pose to pose. What felt good yesterday or last year may not be the answer for today's practice. We are dynamic individuals. We flow in and out of circumstances just like our practice flows in and out of poses. Each position offers an opportunity to realize what we need right now as opposed to what we "usually do" or what we "should do."
If we are too rigid in our practice we become rigid with ourselves or with others. If we are too flexible in our practice we may become too flexible with ourselves or with others. Neither of these situations is optimal or sustainable. Both can lead to injury. There is a middle ground - that sweet spot that is "just right." The practice is to find what is just right for you, in your practice and in your life.