prac·tice/ˈpraktəs/ Verb: Perform (an activity) or exercise (a skill) repeatedly or regularly in order to improve or maintain (or dare I say perfect) one’s proficiency.
Throughout my life, the word “practice” has taken on many meanings and evoked many different emotions. In high school, the practice of track was fun and exhilarating, but not always a picnic. It was a great way to let off steam after school while flexing my competitive spirit. The practice of piano was another story altogether; I not only loathed it, but I lied to my mother and teachers about how long I had done it. Of course, now I’m kicking myself that I did not apply myself to practicing piano, because my repertoire of piano playing consists solely of a crappy version of Chopsticks.
They say practice makes perfect, and to most people I think the word conjures up duty, commitment, hard-work, struggle, and time spent doing something they wish they could master a hell of a lot quicker than all this damn practice is taking. Like me, are you a little guilty of wanting the perfection and wanting it now?
Well, in comes this thing into my life – this yoga thing – and guess what? It’s affectionately referred to as…
I showed up to my first practice with a flimsy mat, crooked back, and curious beginner’s mind and knew immediately that there was no way I was going to perfect this practice. I may have been, oh hell, I’ll admit it, I was definitely the most inflexible student in the class, afraid to try more advanced poses, and was definitely not pushing myself to my edge. But something totally foreign was happening to me on my yoga mat; this yoga stuff never felt like “practicing” to me. I wanted to show up on my mat. It didn’t matter if I couldn’t get my heels to the floor in downward dog; I looked for ways to carve more time in my schedule for it and for more ways to bring its teachings into my life.
Funny how this word “practice,” when mashed up with yoga, takes on a whole new wonderful meaning.
Sirsasana II (tripod headstand) – one of my 2011 Yoga Victories
Every time I come to the mat, I get the gift of practicing yoga. If I had perfected it, how fun would that be? Never having anything new to learn, never that thrill of making it into a pose for the first time, never that satisfaction of holding an extra challenging pose for longer than I thought I could, never reaching that blissed out state I can get to when I really allow myself to let go and be present. I’m addicted to all those small yoga victories and can’t imagine what my yoga journey would be like without them.
I think one of the most important things to remember as students of yoga is this simple fact – Yoga is a practice. You have the rest of your life to practice and grow in it. No need to beat yourself up if you can’t touch your toes or do a handstand. Instead, repeat this mantra: How cool is it that there’s still so much to learn about yoga? I have the rest of my life to go on this amazing yoga journey.
Take your time, learn to breathe, turn off your internal critic, turn up the corners of your mouth, smile, be curious, explore, and embrace your yoga practice.
Piano Photo: Ben Goerz