Growing up, we’re constantly told ‘practice makes perfect’. It’s a mantra that we find ourselves repeating even into adulthood; work hard at something and you’ll reap the rewards.
For many aspects of our lives, this may well be true. We focus our attention on getting better, on the final outcome and the sense of fulfilment we achieve when we reach that point. The education system in this country is one that constantly measures and tracks improvement, turning young people into a piece of data rather than recognising them as the wonderful individuals they are (ok, as an ex-teacher don’t get me started on that – I could rant for hours…).
When it comes to yoga however, it doesn’t matter how much you practise, I’m afraid you’ll never ‘complete’ yoga or become ‘yoga perfect’. Why? Because yoga isn’t about the destination. Sorry folks, but as cliched as it may sound, it’s about the journey!
Ok, thats probably simulatanouely blown your mind and possibly disappointed you and I totally get that. In the western world we’re all about quick fixes: getting from A to B in the quickest possible time, learning copipus amount of information that we can regurgitate in an exam setting and then subsequently forget, or about seeing rapid transformations. If you want that, then maybe yoga ain’t for you. Or conversely, maybe yoga is exactly what you need…
It’s called yoga practice for a reason – you’ll never become yoga perfect!
So why the F do we keep practising something we’ll never be perfect at? Because being perfect is unattainable and an impossible thing to achieve. It’s a facade created to present an image that lacks imperfections. Why on earth would we want that when it’s the imperfections that make us so bloody amazing? If we were all perfect, we’d be boring clones of one another, with little to distinguish us from one another…and let’s face it, the best lessons we learn in life are from the times that we fail not when we succeed with little effort.
As a Virgo and therefore a queen of perfectionism, I spent many of my younger years giving up hobbies and activities that I wasn’t the ‘best’ at. No grade was worth having if it wasn’t an A or an A* (I actually cried for the whole day when I got a B in one of my GCSEs…I shit you not!). It took me a long time to understand that sometimes it’s the things we can’t fix about ourselves that make us stand out, make us memorable or relatable, all in all: perfectly imperfect.
So how does this relate to our yoga practice? Well, firstly, stop comparing yourself! Those perfectly toned Instagram yogis performing seemingly impossible feats of acrobatic agility aren’t you. There are all manner of reasons why they can do what they do, ranging from years of practice, to previous experience in gymnastics, to joint hypermobility…the list goes on. Just like any form of social media, let’s face it, we rarely post the images that show us failing and believe me, even these super-yogis will have fallen out of poses or struggled at some point.
A far happier place to exist is the one where you realise that yoga is about you and your body and treating yourself with kindness and respect. Don’t admonish yourself if you can’t do a headstand or the splits. In the grand scheme of things does it really matter? Is it going to make you a better human being? I’m guessing not!
Next time you get on your mat, take your focus from eternal factors and really bring it into yourself. Work within parameters that feel good to you, access poses that work for your body, breathe deeply and allow the prana to infuse your body and soul, lie in savasana for the entire session…try sacking off perfection, listen to your body, and make your practice your own. There’s always something to learn.