Letting Go of Perfection: Why Yoga is “Practice”… not “Perfect”

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As the seasons change from summer to fall, the trees shed their leaves.  They let go of bright, colorful life, in the hopes of rejuvenation.  It is a reminder to me to let go of some of the pressure I place on myself: Let go of the things that no longer serve me so that I can make way for new life, for new energy.

One of the pressures I am trying to shed is the pressure of PERFECTION.  Most of my life, I have striven for an unrealistic standard of perfection.  This perfect standard has served as a motivator, pushing me to constantly strive for better.  It has likely been one of the main reasons I’ve become a successful business owner and chef.  Yet it has also been a source of self-destructive thought as Perfection often comes with “that wasn’t good enough”.

 

In the past few years, I’ve taken up Yoga.

Yoga reminds me to let go of that PERFECTION and embrace PRACTICE…

A few years ago, I was a staunch candidate for the “I don’t do yoga” team.

In the past, I’ve gone through waves of yoga – on and off for a few month, maybe a pigeon’s pose after a long run.  It had been years since my last actual class.  One reason I resisted yoga was because of the pressure I felt in taking it:  I would be in a room where others know me as a fitness instructor.  My body would be scrutinized.  I might fall.  My hamstring flexibility is horrible.  My right hip is as tight as a rubber band.  I don’t know how to do handstands.  I can barely even sit still for an hour.  I would need to be PERFECT.  If I couldn’t be 100%, what’s the point?

But a casual conversation with a fellow runner-come-yogi had me questioning the limitations I place on myself.  “I can’t” isn’t something I say often.  “I don’t” falls right in the same line.

So, on a dare to myself, I decided to try a yoga class.

Sure, this first time had to be on a day I felt rested and strong.  I had to sweat an hour beforehand to let go of the “Am I burning enough calories?” pressure.  I had to be sweaty, feel skinny, and even do a pre-class stretch to be extra flexible.  I had to be as close to PERFECT as possible.

And so it began…

In the first few weeks, I still strived to be PERFECT.  I kept up this rigorous pressure each week.  And then, I started to let go.  I started to shed some of those old, dead leaves.

Fast forward six months, to current Thursday night PRACTICE.

Thursday night for me is what Friday night is for most people.  It is the end of my week – my very physically-demanding week.  Since Sunday, my 12-14 hours days have been filled with 2-3 hours of teaching fitness classes or my own workouts, cooking 7-8 hours a day, lugging around 40 pounds of groceries, delivering 50 pounds of food, trolling the markets for special ingredients, and even jumping into the occasional push-up challenge.  By Thursday night, my body is beaten.  Muscles ache, legs are swollen, hips and knees remind me of my age.  I’m operating on a lack of sleep, slightly dehydrated, and my brain is fried.  I am depleted.  Far from PERFECT.

As I walk to Yoga PRACTICE, my body whimpers to me, reminding me of my limitations.  So I remind my body that tonight, this practice is just that – PRACTICE.

I will take who I am, in this moment, with this tired and battered body, and I will do my best.

I will show up.  I will breathe.  I will enjoy my fellow yogis.

I will shed pressure.  I will let go of control.

Tonight, I will simply do my best.

That’s all I can ask.

This is not PERFECTION.  This is PRACTICE.

Heart Opening Dancer’s Pose at Lake Atitlan, Guatemala March 2018
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