There’s a quote by Marianne Williamson that many people may have heard before, that goes like this:
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.”
This is an excerpt from a larger quote, which I'll share below, and on its own it is powerful. It’s a reminder to turn towards, not away from, your own light and power.
In a yoga class, offering up a theme that has to do with the student’s personal strength and power is always an effective and inspiring class theme. In yoga, we typically challenge ourselves by putting our bodies in unique and sometimes vulnerable positions. If a student is new to the practice (or even if they’ve been at it for years!), they might be struggling with feelings of “oh, this doesn’t look right” or “I feel awkward.” Student’s also have the tendency to judge themselves based on the other students around them, who may be more advanced within their practice. A great way to encourage students to break out of this mindset is setting an intention for class around having them own their own power. The longer version of the Marianne Williamson quote does just that. (Note: The original quote has mentions of God, which I have removed from this particular blog post. It can be more inclusive to remove mentions of religion from a yoga class, as that experience differs for each of us. However, if you’d like to keep that part in, you can see the full quote here.)
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, 'Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?' Actually, who are you not to be?..Your playing small does not serve the world… We are all meant to shine, as children do…It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
How to use this in class:
During your opening integration pose, when the students are getting centered, start to introduce your theme. For this quote, you might consider having the students reflect first on something that they’re proud of. Something about themselves that brings a smile to their lips. You can remind them that no one else can hear what they’re thinking, so they may as well really give themselves full credit in their thoughts. This is their moment to brag.
Then, you can read the first few lines of the Williamson quote. After you read the quote, invite the students to consider the practice ahead. As they do that, remind them that this practice is truly their own. It’s not about what other students are doing around them. It’s about doing what feels good. It’s about pushing themselves and feeling strong and powerful within their own bodies. Remind them that they will benefit everyone in the room by doing the practice that feels best for them.
As you move throughout your class, you can bring this theme back up by encouraging students to do their best to feel “powerful” or “fabulous” in certain postures.
Finally, at the end of the practice, in a cool down posture, or final savasana, read the full quote to them. Let them savor the words. You might take this moment to acknowledge that it's often easier to turn towards the negative thoughts, rather than the positive ones. That's just the nature of being human. However, it takes conscious practice to see and acknowledge our own light. Yoga is the way to practice turning towards our own light.
As you close practice with a final breath and bow of gratitude, you might say something like: “In honor of the unique and special light that shines within each of us, we bow forward in gratitude.”