But wait, you say, that’s not the PC (politically correct) way to think of yoga. There is no perfection to attain! It’s the journey not the result! Yes, all of this is true, but it is also true, in my opinion, that just coming to the practice is perfect, not what comes out of it.
The Sanskrit word for practice is abhyasa. Abhyasa means having an attitude of persistent effort to attain and maintain a state of stable tranquility (Yoga Sutra I.13). It is what one does regularly, for a long time, earnestly (Yoga Sutra I.14), be it asana, pranayama, meditation, mantra, or bhakti (devotion). But practice must be partnered with non-attachment, vairagya (Yoga Sutra I.12), lest the practitioner become too involved in its results, or in the pursuit of perfection, so easily the goal of a dedicated seeker.
Perfection in itself is soul-crushing. It’s an attempt to be un-real, beyond human. And it’s actually a completely impossible goal. But to come to the practice, daily, regularly, to cultivate and maintain calm and equanimity, that is effort that will contribute to a life worth living. Practice=perfect.
This time of year it is easy to feel the need for a complete reworking or overhaul of one’s efforts. What would it be like to simply deepen your relationship to practice?
At 8 Limbs we want to support yoga practitioners to find practice that is meaningful, regular, and sustainable. In February 8 Limbs will once again hold our 28-Day Commitment. This is our annual effort to create habits in practice that we hope will last the remainder of the year. (Registration now open, see your neighborhood studio!).
To prepare we’ll tackle the equation “Practice=Perfect” in the January Many Paths Teacher Panel on Sunday, January 11 at 6:30pm. Join me, Douglas Ridings and Lauren Kite for our discussion at 8 Limbs Capitol Hill with moderator Kathleen Dowd-Gailey.
And today, take some time to evaluate your practice habit. What could be strengthened? What is your intention? Why do YOU practice?
Posted by: Anne Phyfe Palmer