Does yoga practice make perfect?

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When I first began attending yoga classes, I found it strange how everyone called it a ‘practice.’ You don’t do yoga – you practice yoga. Growing up a dancer and wannabe athlete, I thought of practice as something you do to prepare for something else – a performance, a game, a match. So when I started practicing yoga, I wondered what I was practicing for – what was that end goal?

It has taken me several years of wondering that, but what I’ve slowly come to realize is that my one hour daily yoga practice is really practice for the other 23 hours of my day. On my mat, I practice showing up in the way that I want to show up in my life.

For the first 30 years of my life, I defined myself as a quintessential Type A individual. I craved structure and routine. I needed to be the best at everything, and I was highly dependent on external validation. I believed I was a perfectionist, and I played that role to a T.

When I started seriously practicing yoga, I also started seriously questioning how I had been classifying myself. At 18, I moved across the country to attend college in Maine where I knew no one and knew nothing about snow, LL Bean or how brutally cold walking to class at 8am in January would be. Then at 30, I quit my job to attend yoga teacher training – again across the country and again not knowing a single person who would be there. Those certainly don’t sound like the actions of someone who craves routine.

On a whim, I signed up for muay thai fighting lessons and loved it, even if I constantly got the crap kicked out of me. I also fell in love with yoga, even though I know I will never be that super-flexible yogi in class and still can’t stay in a handstand. Those certainly don’t sound like the actions of someone who needs to be the best at everything.

What I slowly realized about myself is that I love adventure, excel under pressure and am always up for a challenge – even when I end up failing. In other words, on the outside I looked like a lame perfectionist but in reality, I was pretty freakin’ awesome.

I realized that what kept me from loving adventure was a belief that a comfort zone was a safer place to live. What kept me in a routine was the fear of failure at doing something new. What kept me a perfectionist was the thought that external validation was necessary. It wasn’t me that was these things – it was my belief system that was these things. And in the end, my belief system turned out to be just that – complete b.s.

So how does all this relate to yoga being a practice? Well, I came to these realizations several years before I was ready to live by them. I knew I was awesome, but I wasn’t quite ready to be my awesome self. So what I did was I practiced being awesome. For one hour each day, I practiced being the me that I knew I really was – adventurous, fearless, and open. I found that my yoga mat was a really safe place to practice that – it was just me, and it was only for an hour a day.

After years of practicing (yes – it was a lot of practicing), I was able to take that me off the mat. I was able to be that me around other people and extend that time from an hour to 4 hours to (on good days) 24 hours.

I am still practicing every day and know yoga will be a life-time practice for me. But now it all makes sense… I’ve realized that all this practicing isn’t for a single game or performance. It is for something much bigger – it is for a life that is beautiful, authentic and totally me.

Comments

  1. this is really great post and great information about various asanas. thanks for sharing this information. i will keep visiting this blog for more yoga related information.

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