Battling with “Ego” today, that need for perfection. The concept of perfection each one of us has for ourselves and essentially seeps over unto others.
Today in class we went over some anatomy and physiology of the body, talking about the difference in people and their natural skeletal bodies. I thought I had accepted differences in the body but when we began to talk about differences underneath the skin, more precisely the bones, I didn’t realize how skewed my perception was.
Essentially you can have what is known as “compression” where you litterally cannot move your limbs into certain positions because of bone-on-bone contact, limiting your range of motion. I have heard of this concept before, but when my fellow students starting sharing their poses and limitations, it began to open my eyes to the prevalent amount of limitations and differences there really were, even in the yogis I was seated next to.
See, I started my yoga practice when I was about 14 years old and my wonderful teacher, be it good or bad, was very strict in the sense of alignment. Where your foot should be, how many degrees your leg should be bent during warrior one, how your hip should be angled precisely…so I grew up and into my yoga practice with an underlying need and seek for "perfection" in postures. Positively this has layed a strong foundation in my knowledge of poses and how they “should” look, not as positively though, this has made a biased in my head to push unto others the need to aim for that “perfection”; just as I was taught.
Today, seeing the differences in others whom I know push themselves, who do go to their limits in poses and stretches, helped me begin the acceptance to the fact there is no “perfection”. While there is a general set of guidelines of how to obtain a pose, there is no perfection in alignment while in it. Some people may have their foot turned out or in, while in warrior one, some may not be able to open their hip in triangle, others may not even be able to straighten their legs in a forward fold…ever.
It takes some awareness of body to sense whether these restrictions are due to “compression”, where naturally you are born with less range of motion because your bones prohibit it, or wether restrictions are due to lack of flexibility in the muscles and ligaments, which may loosen over time with practice.
We hear from our teachers in class not to look at others and not compare ourselves to them…yet we do anyway. Why can’t I put my hands flat on the floor like that? Why can’t I bend backwards and touch my toes? Why, why, why can’t I?
My question to Cody in class today: "I feel like growing up I pushed myself more into poses because of that strict need for alignment. Shouldn’t everyone be pushed like that?”
Cody: “Did you reach nirvana even after perfecting a pose?"
Me: “...Well, no."
Cody: “Then it doesn’t make a difference anyway, to reach perfection."
My fellow yogi, Toni added: “There is always another pose to obtain, we as humans always want the next best thing, even in yoga."
This was an eye opener for me. Even after reaching “perfection” or a the ability to do a certain pose, you will not automatically reach Nirvana or enlightenment. I never realized before that even after I had seemingly perfected a pose, I was on to the next best thing.
Concluding that, the ways to reach enlightenment come from inside, the mind. The poses, or asanas, are only a tool to help bring focus to inside the body, where the Ego lives, like a ferral animal, waiting to be tamed.
Its difficult, I struggle with it daily, letting go of Ego on the mat and off.
It takes constant practice, that acceptance of imperfection and letting go of ones Ego, while not comparing yourself to others. It’s this underlying concept to not compare, to come as you are, which truly makes yoga beautiful.
Some alignment myths Jonny Kest writes about in our YTT book:
"Myth #1: You were born with prefect symmetrical alignment but through behavior and environmental conditions, you lost.
Truth: Certainly life experiences, mood and behavior affect the tone of your muscles and your physical posture for both good and ill. But winning the genetic lottery of inheritance plays a far bigger role in determining alignment, flexibility and our capacity for performing the most acrobatic or extreme yoga postures that most practitioners believe. Some children are able to touch their feet to their head behind their backs virtually from birth; others will never be able to. Some rank beginners wander into a yoga class and pull off a deep backbend pose like upward bow (full wheel) on their first day - while some lifetime yogis simply cannot. When you realize everybody’s alignment is unique, your yoga practice shifts. You stop seeing the poses as idealized linear shapes that you try to achieve, but as tools for learning and moving towards a deeper level of self-understanding and acceptance. Rather than making corrections, you start making more energetic connections. You no longer use your body to get into a pose, but instead use the pose to get into your body.
Myth #2: There is a perfect posture waiting to be mastered.
Truth: Throw all this natural misalignment and asymmetry into a yoga pose and it becomes clear that perfection in human form, is an illusion. In every yogi, in every asana, bone eventually comes into contact with bone, and no yoga teacher in the world-no amount of chanting, visualization, or deep breathing-will get you an deeper. At that point, whether or not you’ve achieved an asana worthy of the cover of next month’s issue of the Yoga Journal is determined almost entirely by the shape of your bones, your genetics.
The best any of us can do is create an individual interpretation of each pose - our own expression of the asana, like a musician’s take on a well-known song. Yo Yo Ma may play “Ode to Joy” in a way few can match - but your nine-year-old niece’s interpretation of the same song might bring tears to your eyes because of her commitment, enthusiasm and generosity of spirit. We can find lots to appreciate in both versions."
I’ve had SO many people approach me lately with the similar statement “I want to try Yoga, but I’ll feel like an idiot. I litterally have no idea what I am doing. Should I go?”
YES! A million times YES!
If that above jargon wasn’t enough to motivate you about the unnecessary-ness of perfection, then I will state it in another fashion….
We were all beginners once, we all had our first vinyasa, WE ALL looked like complete “idiots” at one point in time. And frankly, yoga is all about acceptance. It could probably be said that compared to other group fitness classes, yoga is the most open and embracing form of fitness out there!
My teacher Cody once said, “I don’t care if someone came to one of my classes and sat for an hour on their mat and meditated, they are still doing yoga.”
Roll out that mat, do not be afraid of the yogis!
On that happy note, here are some cell phone selfies of us being silly in class with some acro/partner yoga.
Good times, namaste! :D