Yoga Doesn't Have To Be Perfect

Last week I was witness to a breakdown. However, instead of it being my 3-year-old daughter, it was one of my long-time Yoga students.

I was moving my client through a traditional yoga sequence when suddenly, we got to the standing poses, (my favorites) and she stopped and cried, “I shouldn’t be doing this! Nothing I’m doing is ever right!”

I was startled. I knew this client well. She had made so much progress and while observing her technique, the thought that had been going through my mind was, “Wow! She is really connecting.”

So where was this coming from?

Chloe had been showing up weekly for privates and classes for well over a year. In my eyes, she had made tremendous progress. She originally came in almost limping in pain and since that first day she had strengthened her core, gained a lot of flexibility in her hamstrings, hips and spine, toned her arms, improved her balance and is totally pain free. Movements that had once been a challenge for her were now a piece of cake. Exercises that once left her out of breathe now barely made her break a sweat. She had become a smooth, coordinated, and well oiled machine.

However, in Chloe’s eyes, she was unable to see any progress. Instead, she had been taking adjustments as negative feedback and honestly believed she had to move perfectly or else she was not doing it “right.” What Chloe did not understand was that yoga, like any other mind/body regime, is a practice. No one is ever going to be perfect. And no matter how much progress a student is ever making, I feel obliged, as her instructor, to challenge just a bit more.

There is always room for transformation in our bodies. And if you don’t believe this, or don’t want to be challenged, why practice at all? Practice allows us to gain a much more multi-faceted connection to our bodies. If we cannot make profound connection to ourselves, how are we able to have compassion for anyone else around us? We are not challenged, we will never change.

Don’t you want to be a better version of yourself tomorrow than you were even today?

What Chloe most likely did not realize was that during each of her sessions, the cues I gave her became more and more sophisticated. What I was saying to her today was information her brain would not even be able to digest in our first lesson. But now, after time and a dedicated practice, Chloe’s mind and her body were able to have a more intelligent conversation with each other. And, she was capable of being pushed a much deeper than she could have been pushed even a few short months ago. It often takes someone else’s guidance to give ourselves the little nudge we need. The nudge that sends us along the path we’ve always intended.

But Chloe was not seeing the road she’d come down. She was frustrated. Every time she came in, she felt like she was still struggling. Was she resisting moving outside of her comfort zone because she wanted to excel, to succeed, to look good? Did she want to be perfect at her yoga practice, just like she strove to be the perfect wife, the perfect mother, and the perfect employee in her office?

If Chloe was striving for perfection, she’d never find it my yoga studio. Yoga isn’t something we can check off a list. I’ve practiced for 17 years and I still don’t feel like I’ve mastered it. But that is OK. I continue to work. I continue to practice. I continue to soar towards reaching new heights. I continue to evolve both in my practice and in my life. In fact, I often see my practice as the metaphor for my life.

I reassured Chloe that was she doing beautifully and reminded her that what we had done today she couldn’t do a year ago, or even 6 months ago. Eventually she smiled. “You’re right. Let’s keep going.”

I have shared an incredible story about one person's struggle with perfectionism. Can you relate to this woman's journey? If, so, I would love to hear from you. Please leave your comments in the box below.

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