There’s something about us yogis, I’ve noticed. We struggle with the perfection thing. In our poses, for one, but also, for many of us, in our lives. A stereotype about yogis is that we are all blissful California surfer mellow. The truth? Many of us (whether from California or Kentucky) are often driven, occasionally even depressed or anxious souls, drawn to yoga as a way to calm down, heal ourselves, and find the peace we are missing.
So, yes, we are not all as mellow and relaxed as we might like. Let me make this personal: I was drawn to yoga to soothe my too often neurotic soul and I struggle with the perfection thing. Even after years of self-study, there’s still this stubborn idea in my subconscious that if I can only do everything—and I mean everything—”right,” then I can can somehow control the world around me.
Of course, it seldom works this way.
All we can do is try our best and then let go, detach, accept, move on. (I’ve learned that lesson after years of yoga study, and a few good years in therapy, too.)
I was talking to a mom at a birthday party the other weekend. She’d been a working actor for 20 years, until taking a break from auditions and roles after the birth of her second child.
“How did you deal with the stress of auditions for all those years?” I asked. (As a writer, I’m always waiting on that seemingly life-altering email from an editor, agent, etc. It takes a lot of “no’s” to get to “yes.”)
“I learned to let it go as soon as I left the room,” she said.
I was reminded of the yoga teacher Baron Baptiste who tells his students, “Let go, and let God.”
But could I learn to truly let go? To not check my email every five minutes, to let worries roll off my back, to quit being hard on myself? Could I be as sweet and gentle with myself as the yoga teacher who offers the gracious Savasana adjustment, the kind word? Could I be half as good to myself as I am to my son?
Lucien struggles with perfectionism, too. Sometimes he hesitates to try things that might come harder, or ends up avoiding activities (drawing, bike riding) where he feels less than expert. Neil and I stress the importance of practice rather than an ideal of perfection; process rather than outcome. But, let’s face it, our example is going to be more important than anything we can say to him about self-acceptance. It’s something we both need to work on. For Lucien’s sake, and for ourselves.
When it comes to yoga I try and find the balance between striving and acceptance—the aim is to neither obsess about form above all else, nor let it all hang out to such a degree that I lose the benefit of the poses. Still, I have to talk myself out of feeling guilty when a well-meaning teacher corrects my form, or the way I’ve prepared my props. (“Shouldn’t I know better by now?” a voice inside me says.) My aim these days is to shed the ego that cares about being “good” or “perfect,” so that I can continue to grow both on and off my mat.
When it comes to Lucien? I hope I can convince him, through my example, that there is beauty in trying, and grace in imperfection.
Jessica Berger Gross is the author of enLIGHTened: How I Lost 40 Pounds with a Yoga Mat, Fresh Pineapples, and a Beagle Pointer (Skyhorse), out in paperback now. She will soon be spending the year in Brooklyn, New York with her husband and four-year-old son. “Like” her author page on Facebook. Follow her on Twitter. Visit her at www.jessicabergergross.com.