Have you ever been to a yoga class, looked around and thought “everyone is doing this way better than me”?
Have you ever turned the pages of a yoga magazine or book and thought, “I’ll never look like that person in the pose”?
Have you ever been to a yoga teacher training and thought “I’m the worst one here”?
Well if yes, we need to shake hands because I’ve felt the exact same way.
For years my thoughts and insecurities plagued my yoga practice. I mean, I still attended classes, workshops and teacher trainings but somehow I just accepted that I was not as skilled or flexible as others. And to be honest, that still rings true today. There are many people whose poses just look “better” than mine.
A few years back though, I began to feel very self conscious about how my poses looked in comparison to others, and as time went on, I could feel this influencing my practice in ways which limited me to only what I thought I was capable of. It was like I’d accepted that I’d never look like “that” person, so it was ok to just do the pose the way I could and that would be good enough. But what I didn’t realize was that if I couldn’t even imagine my progression, how would I ever be able to move forward and develop in my practice?
What became evident to me was that I was changing my behavior to accommodate my insecurities about not being perfect. For example, whenever I attended a teacher training and we were asked to demonstrate a pose, I’d only want to demonstrate the ones I could do in a deeper expression. Like if I knew the pose looked good, I knew that it would look like I’d been practicing for years and “knew” what I was doing. Heaven forbid If someone had asked me to demonstrate something I couldn’t even properly get into, how embarrassing would that be?!
As I developed as a yoga teacher, I began to change the structure of my classes by teaching only the poses I could do extremely well…like if I looked “flexible” in them. But what started happening was that I began teaching the same thing all the time and I started getting bored. A few injuries later, my practice began to take a turn for the worse. I couldn’t even do the few poses I was “good” at because physically, I was in pain.
As heartbreaking as it was to see my practice slowly diminish, the lessons I learned have forever changed the way I practice and how I feel about my practice. What I learned was that being able to go “deep” into a pose does not define how good I am at yoga! It does not define me, who I am or how good I am at teaching. Just because you’re not “perfect” in a pose, doesn’t mean it isn’t perfect just the way it is!
So what do I mean by that? Well, this past summer I returned from a wonderful “dream” vacation to Greece where I spent one whole week basking in the sun, admiring the beautiful scenery and yes, doing a little yoga along the way.
As always, I enjoy taking a few pictures of me in yoga postures with a beautiful backdrop,-like in Greece. Now, pictures can speak a 1000 words. So when I first saw my pictures, I began to criticize myself…how my pose wasn’t perfect. But here’s the catch: the criticism had nothing to do with how “deep” I was in the pose. It was actually interesting to see where I had been out of alignment. If you know anything about yoga, you know that once your body is in proper alignment, you can begin to develop further (deeper) from there and prevent injury. So alignment is key when you’re doing a pose! That, and the breath of course but that’s another story. As I saw the pics, I corrected my alignment, re-shot the photos and I was happy with the final outcome, mostly anyways;-)
Well, upon returning from Greece, I posted a few of my yoga poses on Facebook as a way to inspire people to stay active while on vacation and show that I am not “perfect” in my poses, but I’ll still keep working at them no matter what.
Most of the comments I received on Facebook were encouraging and compliments poured in. A few days later, I met an acquaintance at the local coffee shop who asked to see my photos. I showed him the pics I had posted on Facebook and I could see that he was studying my postures. He then commented on how they weren’t perfect and that he had been practicing yoga for 8 years and could immediately tell in a class if someone was new to yoga or not.
Now, if this had happened to me a few years ago, his comments may have crushed me. They may have left me feeling bad about my self, insecure and may have prompted me to remove my photos on Facebook. But thankfully, I’ve become stronger, more secure and have learned a thing or two along the way.
First of all, I said, what defines perfect in your eyes may not be same as in my eyes. If you think that a yoga pose is only perfect when you see someone doing that pose in its fullest expression, you have missed the point of why you are practicing. Yoga not only helps us improve our physical body but it helps us develop on a mental, emotional and spiritual level as well. Can that be measured by what you’re physically seeing someone do in a pose?
Second of all, as long as my body is in proper alignment, where I can develop in a way that is not harmful to my body, that is all that is important. With practice comes skill, and flexibility and development. So the “depth” of my pose does not define perfection.
Third of all, why should I hide my pictures just because they may not look as perfect or “deep” as someone else’s? Does my imperfect pose mean I am a bad teacher or student? I challenge anyone to debate this with me. Because honestly, at the end of the day, I am a work in progress and I shouldn’t be ashamed of what others can do, that I can not.
I see it this way. I am an ever changing, ever growing, ever developing person, whose desire is to practice yoga because of the benefits I receive from doing so. And as long as my alignment is right, I have the opportunity to grow into my own expression of that particular pose. And if if I look like a pretzel one day, great, but why shouldn’t I be proud of where I am right now? After all, perfect is all relative!