The perfect pose: the perfect alignment, balance, strength, flexibility, state of mind – doing yoga can be a minefield for those with a competitive air.
Yoga is synonymous with lean stretchy slightly bronzed ‘goddess’ and ‘god’ bodies that seem to effortlessly glide into impossible poses. These Olympian yogis are at the peak of their physical prowess, and show an admiral example of what diligent practice can achieve. Attempting to perfect your pose will strengthen your muscles, gradually change your physical structure and alignment, and help your physically transform.
However this can make yoga appear unachievable from the outside. Often people will contact me and say they aren’t very fit or flexible, apologetically, and wonder if they can join the class. Yoga is for everyone, every shape, every size and every ability, but still the atmosphere of perfection surrounds it. People not only worry the class will be too ‘difficult’, but that they will struggle with their self judgement. If the class is too ‘difficult’ they may tell themselves off for not doing better, or if it’s too easy they may find themselves angry and impatient.
Both of these states need less judgement and more compassion. Yoga is non competitive, and in class it’s great to celebrate one person’s deep forward bend or another’s strength….. a steady grounded energy…. effortless joy… as long as you appreciate your own abilities too!.
In yoga it is said you should be competitive only with yourself. This advice is great if you’re a laid back, chilled out sort of a guy…. but if you’re determined tend towards OCD, or tend to exhaust yourself this is not so helpful. Im beginning to think you shouldnt even be competitive with yourself. To strive to move a bit deeper, to extend a bit further can lead you out of the moment and into disecting the pose and the experience. When you focus on one area of the body, you have to loose focus on other areas. Ultimately yoga is about union with yourself and the world around you – not competing analysing and judging. Doing a yoga pose becomes infinitely less fun and less holistic when you focus on the parts not the whole.
Home practice is another ‘goodie’ for the obsessive compulsive. You get on the mat, do your thing, and walk off as untouched as the moment you walked on, but now with the tick box checked! This is the ultimate death of yoga, this is just physical exercise. The next time you leave class or your mat feeling no better, ask yourself why? Notice how you really feel, and be really kind to yourself. Remember yoga is everything you do, every moment you fully experience, every breath you breath. You are worth more than a check box, you deserve better, your moments are valuable. You can do yoga sitting still on the bus, cooking dinner at home, or just sitting still. If you tend towards perfection, and seeking things to be ‘just so’, try out how it feels to allow each imperfect moment to be ‘perfect’.
There is a lovely chant in yoga called ‘The Perfect Prayer’, translated it means much like: This is perfect, that is perfect, take perfect from perfect and you are left with perfect’. Every thing you see, however imperfect it may seem, is perfect for that moment, that nano second.
It means you can embrace perfection, without trying to change a thing. Every pose you do will be perfect, even when you wobble. Every failure, every success – has its place, its ‘rightness’ when we allow life to be what it is instead of trying to force it to be what we want or plan. Learning to live with, and thrive with what is, is the challenge of a lifetime…. and one yoga can help with.
Turning myself upside down and wiggling into weird positions is something I sometimes do for fun, like a 5 year old playing a game. This childish mentality of exploring, wondering and being brave enough to let it go pear shaped is my kind of yoga. It helps my inner perfectionist let go, so I can be more in the moment, more alive and enjoy my yoga even more.
So the next time you hear yourself say ‘I should’, or tell yourself off for doing something wrong, take a relaxed ‘”Im on holiday’ breath and give yourself a pat on the back – you’ve just done some great yoga.