Practice Does Not Mean Perfect

I practice yoga.
I have to continually remind myself of that notion.  I PRACTICE yoga.  I continually strive to be better at it.  But sometimes, I forget about the “Practice” part, and I try too hard to be Perfect…which is how I’ve ended up with two yoga injuries six months apart.
How can something that is GOOD for me turn ugly?  Well, let me tell you, it ain’t easy.
My Yoga Story
My interest in yoga began eight years ago when my daughter, home on break, asked me to go with her to a Beginners Workshop on the other side of town.  I went, I got hooked.  Over time I have progressed from doing a few poses (or asanas) purely for the stretch value to now practicing intermediate yoga asanas to calm my mind, practice my breathing, and strengthen my ability to be fully present.
The whole point of yoga (which translates as “union”) is to help one connect body, mind, heart, and soul; and to accept and work with one’s limitations.  It is about acceptance.
Oh, and did I mention that when you practice yoga regularly it tones muscles, improves balance, dramatically increases core strength, and FEELS fabulous?  Yes, and that is where I get in trouble.
I REALLY like that physically fit thing.  So, when I do a downward dog, I REALLY do a down dog.  And the leg stretch in Warrior poses?  I have to stretch to the max, and do a PERFECT pose, like the guys in the pictures in Yoga Journal.  Which is how I injured my hips doing yoga last year… and why I now have shoulder problems.
Yes, I over-yoga’d.    Sigh.
Do you REALLY need to be Perfect?
Have you ever done something like that?  Gotten yourself so wrapped up in something you do that you just have to be PERFECT?  Hey, don’t deny it, you have.  It may not have been yoga.  Maybe it was soccer.  Or being the perfect spouse.  Or perfect parent.  or completing the P90X program – twice.  Or gardening to excess.  Or obssessing about fat/sugar/salt in your diet.  Or getting all As in school.  Or playing World of Warcraft.  Or being PERFECTLY Happy?
It’s not about the physical part, it’s about the conversation of needing/wanting to be perfect, to do it right, to follow it all the way to the end.
Be Perfect ABOUT your Practice

Exercising my body, in the end, is not about being perfect — it is about being fully present to the process what’s going on with me.  Being present means that I cannot come onto the yoga mat with an “agenda.” It can actually harm me to be too “determined,” about always getting it “right.” A better approach, I am reminded by one of my teachers, is to approach my yoga practice with equal parts patience and persistence, and to say, “I will do the best that I can, with what I have, today.”
And that is such a lovely approach to… well, just about everything: sports, school, parenting, marriage, diet, video games, and even happiness.  You’ll simply never get it perfect every time, but you CAN be perfect in your practice, always learning, always getting back up and trying again when you fall.
So, as I nurse my inflamed shoulder back to health, I have learned how to modify my down dog so I’m no longer hyperextending my shoulder.  I’m kinder to my hips when I stretch.  And I don’t expect myself to be happy ALL the time.
But I keep practicing!



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