Remember June, the end of the school year, and with it that short season of recitals? Oh, I remember it well. The panic of hurriedly memorizing a piece before performing it in front of a group of peers and parents can stimulate even the most reluctant musician to practice. But why practice if there is no performance to perfect, no fear of humiliation to focus our intention?
In yoga, we practice in order to perfect, well, living life. Although the yoga industrial complex’s mantra may be, “it’s not how you feel, it’s how you look”, yoga practice is far less about perfecting a pose, and far more about simply showing up, leaving your baggage (literal and not) to the side, turning off your phone and breathing. Opening your heart and mind to the possibility of change. Breathing into becoming present in these different shapes that sometimes feel tight, and uncomfortable and unsteady, because we want to be able to breathe in the tight, uncomfortable, unsteady places life brings us when we are off our mat.
As long as you are treating yourself kindly, respectfully, encouragingly, breathing into each moment, there is no wrong way of embodying the asana. So just as you wouldn’t chastise a young child for not performing his Suzuki violin piece perfectly the first time he played it, we don’t scream and yell at ourselves if we don’t get the pose “right” the first time we practice it. That would be ludicrous, and absolutely not the point. Honestly.
The point is not to score a perfect 10 out of 10 on your Chakrasana, to win the admiration of your fellow practitioners with your flawless execution of Sirsasana, to become a YouTube sensation with your sultry rendition of Namaste. As Patanjali (you know, father of Yoga, wrote the Yoga Sutras long, long before Facebook existed) stated, “Yoga is the cessation of the mind-stuff”.
Mind-stuff, isn’t that a great term? I’ve also heard the substitution “thoughts”, but I love the image of mind-stuff, stuff in the mind, like your mind has become an episode of “American Hoarders”, and all this mind-stuff is clogging up the passage ways and not allowing you to think straight.We practice yoga for the physical benefits, that’s true, but more importantly to clear out the thoughts, beliefs, prejudices and all that other mind-stuff that is no longer serving us so we can unfetter our mind, body and spirit.