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Monday, February 6, 2012

The Delicate Art of Saying NO!

One of my all time favorite teachers, Mr. Roga once said something that made a huge impact on my life. He
wanted me to 'mind' class. I am not sure if that term is used in the States. It simply meant I was in charge of my class, had to make sure everyone kept quiet and followed rules. If you knew my class, this was a huge responsibility :) So he asked me if i would do it and I hesitated. I pursed my lips and he leaned forward, looked into my eyes and said, 
'Dont think about it, just say YES. Sometimes, just say YES and you will figure out how to do it.' I said yes,and nothing special happened, but what Mr. Roga said has stayed with me. I have repeated it many times to friends and fellow yogis. For someone like me who is self-conscious and prefers to stay in the background, those two lines almost became a mantra of sorts.

But while Mr. Roga gave me the courage to say 'YES' to life i found I had to dig deep inside me to learn to say 'No'. Saying 'NO' has too much negativity associated with it.  Saying 'NO' means you might hurt someone, or disappoint or seem rude. Somehow I feel that the way I was raised also encouraged my reluctance to say 'NO'. You dont say NO to your elders, parents, teachers, neighbors, grocers, it doesnt matter. Saying NO was being defiant, challenging authority. Ironically though, I think my Dad liked it when girls stood up for themselves and went against societal norms. But I was too afraid of personal failure to explore taking a chance on disappointing my dad. Daddy issues..thats a whole other post!

No, saying 'NO' is not easy. But if Gandhi had not said 'NO', there would be no India. If Rosa Parks had not said 'NO', we would not have equal rights. Aung San Suu Kyi's graceful 'NO' gave her over 20 years under house arrest, she was not given a chance to see her sons grow up or go to her dying husband's bedside.  She has shown dictators and oppressive governments everywhere what true patriotism and loyalty is.

J. K. Rowling, Dr. Seuss!! (a freakin genius!), Steven Spielberg, Van Gogh, The Beatles, Michael Jordan, Thomas Edison! all said 'NO' to rejection and giving up on their dreams. Can you imagine a life without Horton, the lightbulb??, E.T., or yellow submarine?

No, saying 'NO' is not easy. But, once you get past the fear, the dread, saying 'NO' becomes saying 'YES' to life. Our bodies are constantly talking to us, giving us signals everytime we encounter a choice. If your heart is whispering 'NO', you should be saying 'NO'. When you say 'NO', you are saying 'YES' to spending time with your family, you are gaining self respect, even from the person you have turned down. Saying 'NO'shows your strength, your convictions, your integrity and your acceptance of life, feelings and limitations of body and mind.

Saying 'NO' brought me to yoga. In my personal practice, saying 'NO', has protected my knees and my wrists. When the time was right, my heart whispered 'YES, you are ready' and my body soared into back bends and headstands. Saying 'NO' has shown people that I am not a doormat.  Saying 'NO' to a destructive relationship brought me to my husband.  By saying 'NO' to other people's demands, I gave myself permission to be strong and confident, I learned to get comfortable in my own skin.  Saying 'NO' at the right time has brought me to my most honest, authentic self.  

And if you still find it hard to say 'NO' to that internal or external bully, maybe Dr.Cox here can show you how :)



  1. YEA! mr. Roga- foundational principles set by a great teacher

  2. I know right! I just completely adored him.

  3. A perfect compliment to *Say Yes* Thanks Fari.