What is scaling? Well there are several ways to look at it. And I’m definitely not talking about a dental procedure.
Scaling, as in "scaling back", is a way to modify something so that it is more accessible. At some point in life, or even later in life, we all end up scaling things we do. We make it so we can live a more fruitful life by not killing ourselves doing more than we are capable.
The context I’d like to explore are for both Yoga and CrossFit, two activities I am keenly a part of.
I teach a Rocket Yoga class that has higher elements of Ashtanga Yoga included. There are many poses that are not possible for many newer students and even for trained students with injuries or limitations (like me!). I just ask that students "try". Trying is what matters. Actually doing a pose is nice, but its the journey, not the goal to attain. But, once you have attained a pose, then that’s where higher levels of yoga begin. Its where you begin to focus on pratyahara, dhyana, and dhurana. These high levels of consciousness that lead to focus, meditation, and concentration are where you reach a next level of yoga. But, you don’t actually need to do a difficult pose to reach this higher level. This is most often reached in a seated position. And it doesn’t even have to be full lotus; any seat will do. Regardless, whether we are doing the full pose or "scaling" to what you can do, we all reach toward something more for our lives.
In the world of CrossFit, there is an adage that says that CrossFit is "infinitely scaleable". Its really true. In the Adaptive Athlete division, this is such an amazingly wonderful reality. If you have the strength to use one arm, one leg, or even no legs, then there is something for you. If you are challenged with sight or hearing where you have to focus on other senses, then there is a way to compete. For someone like me who has an injured shoulder, I’ve spent the past 5 months finding what I can do despite my limitation. It is totally freeing and gives me great acceptance of what I "can" do. You don’t focus on what you can’t. A pull-up becomes a ring row, a toes-2-bar becomes a seated leg lift on a bench, and a handstand pushup becomes a dumbbell overhead press. We are all met where we are in life.
In yoga we call it Ahimsa. Ahimsa is a Sanskrit word that means no-harm. No harm to others or yourself. I will add "acceptance", which in Sanskrit is Santosha. Santosha means contentment, satisfaction, or acceptance. These words have great meaning in a yoga practice. To be honest, I’ve seem people very frustrated with themselves in yoga; even to the point of anger. This is definitely not where we want to be. We are causing both self-harm and a lack of acceptance of where we are in life. My first rule in life, "always be happy". Its doesn’t matter where you are.
I’m amazed that there are even yoga teachers who don’t follow these ideas. They have Samskaras, or ingrained habits, that plague their lives. It could be a hatred of society, of genders, politics of the day, eating habits, or even themselves. Yes, much has to do with a self-hatred, but they lash out at everyone else. They should refresh themselves on the Yamas and Niyamas. And not just recite them for knowledge, but live them out in their lives. These same concepts are the basis for most of our world’s religions. But they are also part of just being a good person.
Scaling goes beyond yoga and CrossFit. It goes into all of life. Maybe you are emotionally challenged right now. So don’t do something that inflames more problems for you. Instead, partake in what is possible at this moment in time. Don’t set out on a 20 mile walk when a mile is a chore. I know it sounds like common sense. But we often set ourselves up for failure and frustration. Instead, set yourself up for success. Set attainable goals. Do some things that make you feel accomplished. Set a few easier goals and reach them. Then feel good about reaching them. That is what scaling is all about. Its about being able to do something. Stay in the positive.