Sometime last year, a friend shared a meme on Facebook, depicting two images. The caption under the first image, of a perfectly polished young woman outfitted in sleek form-fitting fitness clothing, barely breaking a sweat, read, “What I think I look like when I run.” The caption under the second image, of an excited pug, reads, “What I actually look like when I run.” Have you seen that meme? In this instance, I believe the friend who shared the image meant to do so in mock self-deprecation. I wondered whether the number of ‘likes’ under the meme came from others who have ever gone for a jog, feeling pretty darn good until, when passing by a store window display, they inadvertently noticed their reflection in the dirty glass, opening a door to self-criticism.
There have been times when I was inspired by Instagram photos of perfect bikini-clad goddesses on a tropical beach, pressing up into a handstand. I asked Mr. Wanderlust to snap a few photos of me in different impressive inversions. I may not have been on a beach in a bikini, but I was in our backyard, wearing skinny jeans and a cute top. Oh, and there was a time when, for one picture, I inadvertently tweaked my knee while trying to push myself into Parsva Bhuja Dandasana (grasshopper pose), an arm balance that required deep external hip rotation. My hips were not open enough for the pose at the time, and I compensated by using my right hand to place my left foot atop my left upper arm. Thankfully, that injury didn’t take longer than a few weeks to heal.
Throughout that time, as I continued to practise, I started to pay closer attention to the types of practice I truly enjoyed. Instead of asking Mr. Wanderlust to take photographs of me that would allow me to check my form and correct the asana, I became more interested in how the poses and flows feel in my body. Gradually, I started to learn to let go of trying to achieve perfection and started to lean into my intuition. I do not have endless hours in my day to practise on my mat with the goal of achieving perfection, but I do have one hour to dedicate to moving in a way that feels right to me at that time. As I became more comfortable with the notion that different people are proportioned differently, I started to appreciate the differences in the clients whom I lead at the studio, as well as in myself. I no longer become upset with my hips, which are frequently out of alignment, having never healed properly following the birth of the youngest Wanderlust Junior. When Pigeon pose sometimes feels uncomfortable on the right side, I back away, breathe, and patiently meet the challenge wherever it happens to greet me today. Patience toward myself reminds me to be patient with my family when, throughout the day, something (or many things) will inevitably not go the way in which I plan.
I continue to step on my mat (on most days) because my practice makes me feel alive, vibrant, and grounded. It allows me to reconnect to my feminine source by reminding me to acquiesce, to accept, to melt, then marry it with the masculine source by reminding myself to remain disciplined. My yoga practice is honest, and sometimes it does feel perfect. My practice feels perfect on the days when I meet the challenges that arise from within, reminding me that they continue to lurk beneath the surface, and asking me to choose.
I choose to feel, instead of thinking about how the pose should look.
I choose to breathe when I sometimes want to give up.
I choose to melt into all my emotions.
I choose to forgive myself for my past.
I choose to accept myself as I am today.
My yoga practice makes me feel healthy, powerful, and yes, beautiful, even with sweat glistening above my upper lip. I don’t care how I think I look when I practise; I care about how my practice makes me feel.
What is your choice? Why do you practise? Please leave a comment below, and feel free to share this blog with a friend.