My right quad is a little trembly but I’m holding my triangle pose patiently as my yoga teacher takes a moment to adjust a new person in class. I take my eyes off myself in the mirror for just a second, glance around the room at some other nearby triangle poses. It’s funny—I’m impressed, but it’s not the poses of the seasoned yogis that catch my eye. What I like to see is someone who knows when to hold back.
It is in our nature to want to please the teacher, or at least follow the herd, and by this I am referring to all those times when the instructor says, “Don’t continue to the next part of the exercise until your body is ready for it,” yet five people who are clearly not ready for it continue on anyway because everyone else is doing it. The person who impresses me, who I want to send a secret smile, is the one who doesn’t move on past her current level—who is working very hard at the level she is now, and knows that when she is ready, she’ll know it, and will try to move forward then.
This is a digression but I promise it will make sense in a minute: I am so into Neil deGrasse Tyson right now—the brilliant and multitalented astrophysicist who is hosting the new series “Cosmos.” I like him because he’s smart and passionate about his interests, but I really like his insights into how to be a better person. For example, he says to teachers: Don’t take credit for your straight-A students—straight-A students were going to get all As with or without you. But if you have a B student and lifted him up to an A student, then you can be proud of that accomplishment. In other words, pay closer attention to those B and C students, because they need encouragement where the A kids already have it.
If you’re a “B student” in your weight-lifting class, hold your teacher’s attention by trying your hardest as the B student you are. Let those heavy-lifting, perfect-form A students do their thing—admire only long enough to know that it’s in your power to get there, too, with hard work and consistent progress. But a good teacher will see your efforts, and encourage with gentle tips, or nudges to push harder when you might otherwise be nervous. Be proud to be a B student, determined and working at the level appropriate for you. It’s safer, it’s likely to pay off, and it’s impressive.