Practice makes…Perfect?  How to Surrender in Your Practice.

By: Arielle Schwartz


What brings you to your mat? Many of us come seeking peace of mind and the inner calm that yoga offers. Often, this longing arises out of a need to counteract the fast paced, focused, and sometimes competitive aspects of daily living. Nonetheless, these same qualities can be sneak into the yoga classroom if we are not careful.


While yoga is not meant to be a competitive sport, it is quite common that students find themselves focused on finding the right clothes, comparing themselves to their fellow yogis, or pressuring themselves to perfect postures. As a result, a yoga practice which originally stemmed from an intention of self-care can become another source of stress or injury.


When attending a yoga class, it is valuable to include an intention self-compassion. Remember, that healing does not come in the form of perfecting Eka Pada Rajakapotasana (one legged, king pigeon pose), mastering perfect handstand, flattening your abs, or wearing a trimming Lululemon outfit. In fact, classes that emphasize the external look of a pose or body type can be a disservice as they can amplify self-critical or perfectionist tendencies.


To keep ourselves awake to the pitfalls on the yogic path, we are guided by Patanjali’s Sutras, a major text in yogic philosophy. Here, we are reminded that asana practice is only one limb of the eight-limbed path. This physical practice is meant to be complimented by conscious breathing techniques, meditation, and moral guidance. Patanjali’s text emphasizes observation of our thoughts in order to develop “clear perception.” The Sanskrit word Klesha translates as “trouble maker” and refers to our mental misperceptions and misunderstandings. We work with them through increasing self-observation and labeling our thoughts as useful or not useful. It is important to note that we are not judging our thoughts as “good” or “bad.” We simply recognize that there are thoughts that create greater ease and those that create more distress.


To find surrender within a yoga practice, remind yourself that you are engaging in yoga practice not yoga perfect. Each practice offers an opportunity to explore your mind and body and to refine your awareness in one small way. Remind yourself that you have permission to take risks, make mistakes, and to learn in the process.


The next time you get caught up in a spin of self-criticism or comparing yourself to others, I invite you to integrate this loving kindness meditation into your practice. This meditation asks you to engage in the act of friendliness toward yourself and others. Take a moment to reflect on a challenge you are facing in your life. Now, imagine someone else facing a similar challenge. Can you evoke a sense of compassion or kindness toward this other person? Notice how this feeling of compassion feels in your body. Wish them well. See if you can you extend that same quality of loving kindness toward yourself? Wish yourself well.


Remember, we are all in this imperfect, human experience together.


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