Friday, May 9, 2014

Practice, Not Perfection

Practice, Not Perfection
by Rachel Wilson
One key quality for the yoga student to develop is a sense of patience in practice. Somehow, in our fast-paced, goal-oriented society, we easily forget about the process of practice and have begun to classify even yoga as something we must successfully accomplish.  Not only do we want to succeed at this practice, but we want to nail every pose and every breath at the exact right moment, the first time and every time thereafter.  

But yoga, like most things in life, isn't about how far we advance on the mat or into a pose, and there is never a need to bring a hurried or competitive sense to the experience.  The postures are useful and beneficial for a myriad of reasons, but more important are the small and large shifts that can occur in our deeper layers of being when we offer some of our time to practice. The nudge into a more expanded consciousness, subtle transformation of character, gentle assimilation of ideas and increased broadening of awareness that occur are the real markers of progress in yoga, and these things take at least as much time as loosening up tight hip flexors, so the rushed mentality is one that we can drop. 
Yoga is always about practice, not perfection .  It is what happens on the way to each posture, throughout the journey of patience, that counts in this realm.  Surprisingly, some of the most profound bits of progress for the yogi(ni) may even happen after the mat has been rolled up and put away.  The nice thing about consistent yoga practice is that it continues to give its gifts, even when we are no longer reaching for them.  No one minds if you cannot touch your toes.  Those who approach a yoga practice with non-judgmental dedication will certainly be transformed, and sometimes in the most unexpected moments after many seemingly-uneventful times of enduring practice.   

Patience asks that we do not look towards some bigger, better, more impressive version of a posture, our circumstances or ourselves, but that we acknowledge, accept and embrace what is, now. 
I have heard the saying, "Practice makes Perfect," but I will be the first to admit that I rarely have a day or a mat-session without at least a few mishaps.  Sometimes the mind fluxes.  The heart races.  The body tenses up and our emotions fool us into thinking that if we could only know, reach or achieve something today, then tomorrow will certainly contain the better future we have been longing for.  Maybe instead of striving for perfection, having patience in practice is a better goal.  
Ranier Marie Rilke urges us, "Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer." 
Practice like this.  One day at a time.  One mat session at a time.  Living, breathing, patiently experiencing each stumble and success along the way and allowing life to continue to unfold. 

See you at OM.

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