Those who are close to me know that I am one of those type-A, perfectionist people. In high school, in fact, people used to call me “Little Miss Perfect.” (Yeah, I know they didn’t mean it as a compliment.) I had to make straight A’s, be first chair in band, get the lead in the school play...you get the idea.
While I think being driven to achieve is a good quality to have, obviously, it has its drawbacks. For me, it has at times made me afraid to try something new for fear of failing. Can’t fail if you don’t try it in the first place, right?
And my other job as a musician only adds fuel to the fire. I mean, you pretty much have to play near-perfect to win an orchestral audition, and you can’t just be messing up all the time and expect to keep your job.
Thankfully, I’ve gotten somewhat better about this over the years, in large part due to my yoga practice. (And also because being over 40 makes you delightfully less caring about what other people think!)
Key word being "practice."
There is no yoga “performance” or “competition,” no “winner” or “loser.” (Yes, I know there are people out there who put on such things, but that is not the true nature of yoga, sorry. I call shenanigans.)
Everyday, I get on my mat and practice. Not because I have to perform a sun salute from memory in front of an audience. Not because in three months I have to nail a handstand away from the wall. Not because I ate ice cream last night and need to perform fifty chaturangas for penance.
Okay, maybe that last one sometimes, but really I just get on my mat and practice for the sake of practice. How freaking novel an idea is that?!
That’s not to say you can’t have goals to work on in your practice. What better motivator? This year some of my goals are to improve my “weak-side” arm balances and to do more yin.
But when we become too attached to outcome, we miss the whole point. It sounds cliché, but it really is about the journey, not the destination. There is no end point. It’s all practice.
Now don’t get me wrong, it’s not like I just went into my first yoga class years ago and came out magically cured of my perfectionist ways. This too has been a practice.
I used to try to be Little Miss Perfect on the mat as well. I had to do every single chaturanga, never took an unannounced child’s pose, and felt like a failure if I couldn’t hold my headstand straight up for at least a minute.
Shoo, that crap is exhausting. It is simply not possible for anyone to be “perfect” at every yoga pose at all times. Usually the bendiest people in class are not the strongest and vice versa. We all have our strengths and weaknesses.
And let me tell you, it is SO LIBERATING to get to the point where you just don’t give a flip if you do that headstand or not. In my opinion, the most “advanced” yogis are the ones who are able to skip chaturanga in favor of child’s pose when it’s best for their body.
I wish I could offer some advice on how to get to this point, but for me, it just took lots and lots of practice.
Forget “practice makes perfect.” There’s no such thing as perfect anyway. Practice for sure makes progress. That’s the cool thing - even when you don’t have a specific goal in mind for your practice, results still come.
So get on your mat and try practicing just to practice. Let me know how it goes.