Striving for Perfection
For years, a pattern showed up on my yoga mat that I wasn't aware of - striving for perfection. This pattern was weaved into many facets of my life - work, relationships, health, wellness - but I was completely unaware that it existed in my daily, sacred practice. Pushing, controlling, striving were all parts of my personality that I was "working on" and learning to accept in a loving way. I felt that these patterns were slowly unraveling - allowing me to feel more free.
A few months ago, I ran into one of my yoga teachers in Vancouver, Fiona Stang. She is a teacher that I greatly respect and admire. I don't believe that I ran into her by accident.
She asked me in a very loving way if I had been practicing. Feeling guilty, I looked down between my feet and said "Not really, I've mostly had a sitting practice over the past year or so". (For those of you who don't know, I've experienced some tremendous difficulties with my health over the past year - I will save that story for another article ;) . Fiona responded "Well that's okay....the form changes". Wow. Interesting. "The form changes". That was exactly what I needed to hear. I felt like I had "failed at yoga" being unable to practice the way I used to. This affirmed that, like everything in life, the form changes as we grow and change. Illness, pregnancy, ageing etc. etc. etc.....the form of the practice changes, but it's still practice.
From that day on, I returned to my mat with a different perspective. I explored areas of my practice in a new way. Sometimes sitting, sometimes just sun salutations, sometimes lotus, sometimes not. Other times taking a restorative practice (during my moon cycle). What I realized, was that when the form changed, I still received the same benefits of the practice. The benefits that kept me coming back to my mat in the first place! When I practice I feel this sense of inner strength and calm. I believe that the increase of prana (life force energy) in my body strengthens and balances my nervous system, which helps me to see things more clearly. Practice helps me to be less reactive and respond in a clear way to various situations in my life. David Swenson once said "yoga makes my life easier". And that's exactly how I feel! When I practice, it sets the tone for the rest of my day. It keeps me steady.
It took me years to realize that I had taken one of my life-long patterns onto my yoga mat. Thinking that practice had to look a certain way. Believing that I wasn't doing enough on my mat and feeling guilty as a result. Now, I realize that practice is practice. Whether I get on my mat and do the full primary series or sit on my mat and breathe deeply. I no longer want to judge myself for what type of practice I have. I want to have a loving relationship with my yoga mat - and ultimately, with myself.
Fiona reminded me that "the form changes" and that Ashtanga is a life-long practice. The most important aspect is using the practice as a tool to focus the mind. When my mind is clear and steady, life is easier. This alone will keep me coming back to my yoga mat. Hopefully for a lifetime.