One of my all-time favorite Bikram Yoga teachers said years ago during a class, “It’s the practice room, not the perfect room.” At the time, I thought it was a clever thing to say. I had no idea this one little statement would resonate with me as much as it has, years after taking his class.
As a Bikram Yoga practitioner for many years, I’d always find myself in competition with myself and other yogis around me, trying to push my body into the next level or final expression of any given posture. It didn’t matter if my knees hurt in Fixed Firm, I’d push myself to recline all the way onto my back anyways. It didn’t matter if I struggled to balance on one leg or was hunched over my bent knee during Standing Forehead to Knee, I’d muscle my way through the posture anyways.
In yoga teacher training, I learned about crazy ideas how yoga wasn’t a competition and that it was okay to back out of postures if they didn’t feel good. It could have been these new ideas that changed my perspective on yoga. Or maybe it was all of the yoga classes I was taking on a daily basis that forced me to take a step back and listen to my body finally. Whatever it was gave me permission to explore all of the different options of any given posture. For the first time, I stopped caring about what other people were doing around me in class and started caring about how my own body felt instead.
As a yoga teacher, I have the ability to share my special “ah-ha” yoga and life moments with my students through setting an intention for my classes and including a personal share at the end of each class. The Prize Is In The Process is my intention for class this week, an idea borrowed from Baron Baptiste’s Journey Into Power book, one of my required book readings in my CorePower Yoga Hot Power Fusion yoga teacher training.
Often when I’m teaching yoga, I see people, just like I used to, muscle their way through each posture and get frustrated whenever they fall out of a posture early. Whenever I see this in class, I want tell these students that there are no prizes for perfect yoga poses. A yoga practice is a journey with no end. You grow and transform along the way. This means it’s perfectly okay to yourself permission to enjoy wherever your body is at today. It could mean working hard and going to your edge. Other days it might mean taking an extra breath or two or hanging out in a resting posture while you allow yourself to catch your breath. It could also mean exploring variations and options of any given posture. Sometimes it could even be taking an extra water break or two in-between postures. The point is to honor your body by giving it whatever it needs.
Let your body be your guide. Do what feels good in your body today. Yoga isn’t about achieving a posture perfectly. It’s about showing up on your mat and honoring your body on how it feels that day and give it whatever it needs – a gentle push, a sip of water, an option or a break. This is the practice room, not the perfect room.
This idea of the prize is in the process has followed me off of my mat and into my recent hiking and backpacking adventures. I’ve been doing a fair amount of hiking and am pretty new to backpacking. I’ve been spending quite a bit more time outdoors lately, training my body to move up and down the mountains and carry a considerable amount of weight on my back in anticipation for my big PCT adventure next April. While I’m out there sweating profusely and struggling to climb my way up the trail, I have to remind myself that this too (just like my yoga practice) is a journey. It will never be perfect.
With each hike and backpacking trip I go on, I learn and grow along the way. My body gets stronger. I get more efficient in how I carry my weight and pack my pack. I get to know how to use my gear better. I feel more comfortable spending time outside, with friends and by myself. While I’m busy learning all of these important lessons on each of my outdoor adventures, I’m doing the most important thing of all – having fun with it!
Give yourself permission to let go of the competition and have fun. Be okay with the fact that it will never be perfect. Enjoy the journey.