Why We Shouldn’t Strive for Perfection in our Yoga Practice
From what we wear, to what we eat or do, our society’s always been pretty quick to set rules and pre-fixed schemes about what is good, beautiful and morally acceptable. Everything that shifts from this perspective is too often perceived as inadequate or imperfect.
Sadly, Yoga is nowadays no exception.
I bet you’ve at least once met someone that goes: “oh she’s a great teacher, she’s so good at doing yoga”. And that is, unfortunately, the modern perception that numerous people have about this practice. The thing is, that you cannot actually be good at it. What does being good at yoga mean anyway? Sure, twisting yourself into tricky asanas might look impressive, but it has little, if nothing, to do with being a good teacher or being good at yoga.
What many instructors might need to hear is that it there is actually no reason as to why a yoga teacher has got to be able to get into any advanced poses: no ancient yogic scripture ever mentions the fact that you got to be good at yoga in order to be a great teacher.
At the end of the day, I came to realise that our path through yoga is not actually reaching perfection, it's about discovering our way to authenticity.
The Impact of Social Media on The Yoga Community
One of the major factors that contributed to shaping this new reality are, with high chances, social media. They play an effective, if not central role into our everyday life and they of course impact also on the modern yoga community. Yoga has, as a matter of fact, become an incredible online phenomenon, and rather than be treated as a spiritual practice it is often advertised as a sort of fancy training; as such, it seems to suggest that it is only really made for those who are young, thin, and hyperflexible.
Social media regularly portray yoga as a pathway to a so-called “perfect” physical practice, for a standardised body, completely detached from its deeply spiritual meaning. We’ve all surely stumbled across those “yoga aesthetic” viral videos, showing perfectly shaped bodies all tangled up in impressive postures in the middle of a luscious natural spot.
Influenced by this charming online reality, many students might as well tend to grow high expectations of teachers and in return, some instructors may fear the pressure of failure. We do need our students’ appreciation of course, but we also need to remember that we don’t have to live up to expectations to please anyone. I believe instead that the teacher’s job is to study, understand the real essence of this sacred discipline and develop skills that can allow them to transfer this message to their students.
Have We Lost Touch with What Yoga Is Really About?
And yet, what surprises me the most is that making mistakes is still a taboo for many instructors. I remember one of my dearest teachers once opened up about a common problem spread among many of her colleagues: during their training course they developed an acute form of perfectionism, so stubborn it pushed them away from their daily practice and even caused them physical discomfort. At the end of the day, I came to realise that our path through yoga is not actually reaching perfection, it's about discovering our way to authenticity.
Yoga can indeed be a powerful tool that can help us find our true-self. Making mistakes makes us feel fragile, vulnerable, but isn’t it true that every mistake teaches a lesson? Vulnerability can truly be a value, because it exposes our raw, human side. Take mistakes as growth opportunities.
Start cultivating genuine self-acceptance and self-love, always keeping in mind that there’s nothing wrong in falling out of a pose in front of our students: don’t fear judgments, just laugh about it!
Remember: laughs connect people and it can help create a lighter, joyful atmosphere during our class.
A Gentle Reminder To All New Teachers: Progress instead of Perfection
Don’t get me wrong: one thing is achieving a complicated pose, another thing is obsessing on perfection. After all, as we all know, poses represent just a small part of the discipline.
Challenging ourselves into tricky asanas can indeed be a beautifully interesting way to get to know more about our limits, our capabilities and ultimately, our true persona. So yes, setting goals is undeniably part of our path through yoga, but we should also try to avoid getting disillusioned if we are not making it.
Just take yoga as a growing process: as such we should therefore focus more on progression, rather than perfection.
It is true: following forced cues won’t take you anywhere, because we don’t need to force ourselves in order to meet social expectations. We simply need to accept ourselves and our bodies the way they are. And I guess that that’s exactly what makes us unique.