12 Apr Practice makes…Perfect? How to Surrender into Your Practice
By Leslie don Ross
Contrary to cultural belief that “Practice Makes Perfect”, in Yoga, there is no actual finish line or end point where you can say I have attained “perfection” and can now abandon my yoga practice. That could be considered reaching enlightenment, sainthood or GOD. In contrast to the modern world that encourages perfection as a pinnacle of success, perfection is not the goal of Yoga.
Yoga does provide tools to navigate the storms of life with more ease and grace. Yoga is about surrendering into the experience to connect with our higher self – the Divine within. Through focused practice, a Yogi can access the doorway to one’s soul, one’s true essence (Purusha), which at our core is perfect and unchanging.
The negative stigma attached to the idea of “Surrender” as a last ditch resort is in opposition to the yogic definition. Instead of giving up, we are giving into something greater than our forceful attempts to mold our experience into what we believe it “should be”. Surrender is a practice of letting go of expectations or goals to objectively move into a new relationship with your practice through connecting with the present moment. Being present can inform and empower new pathways for exploration and growth. As we become aware of our shortcomings, we create space to transform our unhealthy tendencies and gain valuable tools to harness our energy to not only navigate challenges but to also thrive in the mists of those challenges.
Through a release of our attachments to the results of our practice, we are able to open up into what is there and what can best support us in the present moment. Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra talks about attaining this connection to the soul through Practice (Abhyasa), Saying no to things that don’t serve us and substituting with things that support our path (Vairagya) and to surrender to the Divine (Ishvara Pranidhana).
Practicing Yoga is similar to dental health. If you want stronger gums and healthier teeth you have to brush and floss regularly and cut out the foods or habits wearing away at your teeth and gums. You have to start where you are with the teeth you have. You have to start small and develop a habit until it sticks.
Here are a handful of tips to help you surrender into your practice with grace and enthusiasm.
#1 Be Inspired. Start your day with an inspirational or educational read to stimulate your learning centers and expand your horizons. Take time in nature to reconnect, ground and recenter. Inspiration gives us that boost we often need to move from our isolated bubble to a place of greater spaciousness. When we move from head to heart, we soften and surrender into interconnectedness. This more expansive perspective sets the scene to open up into our practice.
#2 Kindness is Your Companion. Be gentle with yourself. Kindness starts at Home. Come to your practice space with an attitude of compassion for yourself and what your body, mind and spirit is needing in the moment. Be flexible and soften into exploring your body. Rigidity is a recipe for abandoning your practice when you fall short of your goals. Adjust your practice to support your health needs. Sun Salutes can help stimulate when feeling sluggish. Longer holds or exhales can ground when feeling agitated, edgy or flighty. Or explore supine, seated or forward folds when achy and tired.
#3 Gratitude and Grace. Make your practice an offering by coming to your mat or your sacred space with an attitude of gratitude. With this mindset, we set the stage for compassion, forgiveness, exploration and opening up to grace. We also open up to something larger than our small selves and this attitude takes us out of a being state to a feeling state.
#4 Keep it Simple. A large structure needs a solid foundation upon which to grow from to last the test of time. Start small and then increase once your roots have been established. At first, you may struggle to fit yoga into your life. Once you have established a routine and developed a thirst, a hunger to dive in deeper, schedule more time for your practice once the demand is there. You will then find that you arrange your life so it fits into your yoga. Use a timer and start with 15 mins of movement (Asana) and 2-5 mins of stillness (seated practice- meditation).
Check out the following links for online resources for guided practices.
#5 Consistency is Key. Same Time, Same Place, Same Practice. Set a goal to do the same practice for 30 days. We build habits by firing the same muscles until they become routine. Allow yourself the flexibility to adjust what style of movement needed based on how you are feeling that day. Begin with tapping into the present moment by focusing on the movement of breath up and down the spine. End your practice with a focus on the breath to reconnect to the present.
What has worked for you to open up into your practice to find a deeper more connected experience both on and off the mat?