Home   Uncategorized   It’s Not Going to be Perfect, But Hopefully You Will Laugh Sometimes: What Yoga Is Asking of You

It’s Not Going to be Perfect, But Hopefully You Will Laugh Sometimes: What Yoga Is Asking of You

Fall down seven times, get up eight: yoga doesn't need you to be perfect.

As human beings, it seems we’re attracted to short lists of steps we can take to make a Perfect Life. Magazines know this: every single month, their covers boast “Five Ways to End Stress NOW!” and “Four Super-Foods to Beat the Common Cold!” and “The ONE killer move that will make you look awesome in sweat pants!” We’re busy, and we want to be happy, and we just want to know how to get from point A to point B without too many problems.

And it’s not just the magazines. Sometimes we treat yoga practice like this, too—at times, it seems the tradition might even encourage it. From the perspective of some yoga traditions (the Classical Yoga of Patanjali as laid out in the Yoga Sutras, for example) the strategy of yoga is defined by eight limbs, climbed sequentially, leading toward purity. Whittle away at the extraneous identities you believe to define you, they say, and you can boil things down to an essence, a pure, perfect seed of consciousness that’s the truth of who you are. A soul who wears the costume of a human being.

On so many days, this purity thing sounds like an absolute pleasure. Because who among us doesn’t suffer from multiple-role-induced exhaustion? The more identities we occupy, the greater the likelihood of being stretched thin, right? I know for myself, having to hop-scotch between the roles of parent/spouse/sibling/child/householder/yoga student/yoga teacher/studio owner/Justin Timberlake fan (for example) often leaves me a little dizzy, fuzzy-brained, and—most aggravating of all—feeling like I never quite manage to perform any role perfectly. Like, not even close.

And on those not-even-close days, it sounds so awesome to simply put on a t-shirt that reads “back off man, I’m a soul,” and go floating above the world emitting fairy dust, never touching down into the muck of life. Tra-la-la!

But. When I really think about it, it’s a pretty impossible idea, and maybe even a not-very-good idea, to hold onto this kind of floaty transcendence as a goal. I’m not so sure that we were given this life in order to transcend it. I think we’re here to make more of who we are by way of our walks through the muck, reaching out to others when we slip, maybe even smiling sometimes in the midst of falling and getting up and falling down again.

So I tend to love the traditions related to Tantric thought, which are admittedly less “pure” or clear-cut than the Patanjali model. The Tantric traditions don’t offer eight limbs to enlightenment, or rules for being good. They do give us a whole bunch of stories and unfinished maps, filled with gods, goddesses and demons alike who represent every possible version of who we might be in any given moment, and they say, “here you go. Find yourself here. Make some goddamn sense out of all these shards and chutes and ladders. GO.”

From this perspective, the goal of yoga isn’t “get pure.” It’s “make meaning.” It’s “make good on the gift of being alive.” When you look at people who achieve great things, both large and small, you see they aren’t defined so much by perfection as they are by curiosity, tenacity, and a willingness to work under sometime-less-than-stellar conditions to create a life. And as long as I’ve been practicing yoga, I’ve managed to find some echo of those qualities bubbling up as I let my practice do its work on me. It’s enough. It’s everything.

As the brisk activity of the fall season arrives, we wish for you some breath-catching moments that allow you to celebrate all the various versions of yourself that you hold together in the project of creating a life. It won’t be perfect. But it will probably be kind of excellent anyway.

Much love and thanks for reading,

Erin H/Grassroots Yoga




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