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Friday, March 14, 2014

Practice

The hardest part of yoga, perhaps, is the thing that's always tripped me up when starting something new: practice. As a noun, I love the practice of yoga. I love attending a class, trying new postures, meditating, reading and writing about yogic philosophy and anatomy.

“Practice,” as a verb, however, reminds me that I have to be bad at it for a while. Nevermind that judging my asanas or breath or meditation or choices as “bad” is a very non-yoga thing to do. I want to be good at it. To feel successful. Like I can actually deepen my stretches, like my meditation really is peacefully transcendent.

I've never liked to practice. When I was a kid and my mom signed my brother and I up for piano lessons, I hated practicing. My kind older neighbor would remark on occasion how lovely it was to hear us playing when the windows were open. I recoiled from her perfectly gracious words. Someone hearing me mess up?!

Beyond the perfectionism, I think it also has to do with earnestness. Despite my goofball ways, I was a pretty serious kid. One of the worst things to me was, and still is, to be laughed at when I'm being dead-serious. Even when people aren't laughing out of meanness at all, I feel patronized. It takes me tons of self-talk to remember that others are coming from a kindly perspective. That when they're amused, they're really seeing me through the lens of their own experience. (The good ones, at least. Sometimes people really are dumb and mean.)

I've adjusted for this by developing a goofy sense of humor. By constantly cracking jokes, and certainly making fun of myself whenever I can. I do like making people laugh, but the side effect is that when I make fun of myself, other people don't get to. If I'm busy calling my outfit loud and crazy, other people don't have the chance to ask why I'm wearing weird clothes. If I put on a voice to mock mushy-sentimentality, then I don't run the risk of being misunderstood or made fun for my own romantic notions. It's a nice shield, really. It prevents me from being subject to the dismissals of “That's dumb!” or “Why are you doing that?” when sharing the things I truly care about.

It's hard for me to practice yoga in our tiny apartment when my partner is around. He respects my practice, and is glad for anything that makes me happy and fulfilled. But he doesn't share my love for it the same way, so it's hard for me to share it. In the same sense, it's a big deal for me to share my absolute favorite books, or movies, or shows, or music. Those works that truly transport me to another space. When other people say it's crappy music, or even just point out, “Oh, what a nice plot element,” it seems less like an opinion or observation, and more of a comment on the very center of myself. What I'm lost in the splendor of Oz, and they start pointing out the lovely brocade of the curtain? Or worse, if they laugh at the thought I could be taken in by such a display.


So to practice yoga, is for me, a practice in failure. Or, rather, a practice in letting go of the outcome and finding my breath and my peace in the attempt. Letting go of others' experience and fully embracing my own truth. I am allowed to try. To earnestly love yoga and care about my yoga practice. I may reach farther than I did yesterday. I may not. My mat doesn't give a damn. After all, it's only practice.