It’s Yoga Practice, Not Yoga Perfect
My yoga teacher is fond of the phrase “It’s yoga practice, not yoga perfect.” The point of our yoga practice is not to be stunningly beautiful on the mat, have the perfect yoga outfit, or do the yoga poses flawlessly. The point is to keep learning, evolving, and flowing with our experience. Some days, we’ll be in flow; we won’t fall over in Tree Pose, we won’t struggle to do yet another sun salutation. Some days, we’ll feel grumpy and stiff and our bodies won’t do what they could do perfectly well the day before. Yoga is a practice, a way to keep present, and to connect with our bodies and minds. There is no ‘goal’ in yoga, no place where you can end up and can then go no further. When we get too good at a particular sequence, when we don’t even have to think about it, it’s time to change things up, to add poses that challenge us to keep growing.
Life is like this.
I’m terrified of making interpersonal mistakes. If I get too emotional and someone sees it, I can feel ashamed for weeks. Sometimes I have to literally bite my tongue to keep from asking, yet again, for reassurance from them that they don’t now despise me for having had an emotional reaction. My practice, then, is working on being comfortable being emotionally open, even when the emotions are uncomfortable. If I didn’t have this particular struggle with having people see this part of me, I wouldn’t need to practice letting go of the shame for having an emotional side of me.
Our struggles are like this. They are our practice. If we didn’t have them, we’d be perfect, and there would be nowhere for us to go. There’d be no reason for us to be here.
It’s hard to remember this when we’re in our difficult places. Just like when we’re in a strenuous yoga pose and all we can think about it how uncomfortable it is and how annoying the yoga teacher is for talking when all we want to do is get out of the pose, when we’re wrapped in our stories and our struggles, we forget to breathe, forget that THIS, this discomfort, is our practice. All we want is for the discomfort to stop, to get to a pose we like.
For me, yoga has always been more than just a fitness regimen. It’s been about training myself psychologically to be in uncomfortable spaces and to stay there, feeling the sensations but not collapsing under them. I’ve seen myself evolve off of the yoga mat, too, though I’m still nowhere near perfect (as if that were the goal). I’m better at sitting with uncomfortable emotions, better at focusing my attention and re-centering myself. When I fall over, I still struggle with accepting this and being kind about it, but I’m getting better.
Life is a practice, not a pursuit of perfection. When we meet our goals in life, hopefully there will always be more to strive towards. The goal, then, is not really the point. It’s the process that’s the real goal, the practice of learning how to get back to stability and balance in challenging new poses.
How do you use your life as an evolving practice?
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It is very important to generate a good attitude, a good heart, as much as possible. From this, happiness in both the short term and the long term for both yourself and others will come— Dalai Lama
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