Many people don’t have self-care practices simply because their expectations are too high in the beginning, so they never get started.
Do you ever find that because you’re not a perfect yogi or a serene mountain top meditator that it’s not good enough so you practice even less? This goes for decluttering your home and making space as well. You’re not a perfect minimalist, so why even bother trying?
My yoga practice has suffered for great lengths of time in the past because I didn’t meet myself where I was in that moment. Instead I shamed myself for not going to hour long yoga classes multiple times a week at a studio, so I never got on my mat at all.
Pressure to meditate perfectly can have the same effect, the inner shame and comparison game can have you believe that you’re not doing enough. This can be fueled by the ever present barrage of magazine worthy perfection we are fed on our social media feeds.
We see perfection, we shame ourselves for not being good enough, and we continue without growing on our path.
There’s got to be a better way.
If you’ve read through any of my past posts (such as this one and this one) you know that I believe perfection should never be the end goal.
Giving up on perfectionism means you don’t have to be a hardcore yogi or minimalist to learn from these practices and apply them in your own life. You can be you, learning and growing, slowly incorporating life improving practices into your life, at your own pace, in your own time.
When you let go of perfectionism, you make way for a supportive, healthy and ever-changing practice. This is where real growth can happen.
Below I share some practical ideas for you to get started with three of my favourite healthy practices.
Meditation is such an amazing practice. There’s science to back up how good it is for your brain, it can be a completely free practice to take up (you literally only need yourself to do it). There is a huge amount of different ways to practice, and yet so many people that know of its benefits struggle to maintain a practice. Why?
Meditation can feel hard, and it can bring up lots of self judgement. Here’s where the perfection thing comes into play. You wouldn’t expect to run a marathon the day after you started jogging would you? Same goes for meditation. Let go of how long you think you “should” be able to meditate for.
Try this instead:
If you really want to develop a meditation practice for yourself, you have to start somewhere. So start simply.
Start with one minute a day.
Find somewhere comfortable and quiet, turn the ringer off of your phone and set an alarm for one minute. Close your eyes and breathe. When the alarm goes off, slowly open your eyes, take one more breath and move on with your day with purpose.
Try and do this for a month. At the end of the month, you will have meditated for 30 minutes! That might be longer than some will ever have meditated in their entire lives.
During this month, notice how your mind reacts to its one minute rest a day. Do you feel any different? This will be supremely personal, and you’ll only know if you try it.
At the end of the month, see where your meditation path takes you.
Yoga will look different in your body compared to anyone else’s, but we get scared we aren't "doing the poses good enough". While the poses in your typical yoga class give a framework for the shapes you take on, they are that way to offer healing benefits, not to look an exact certain way.
Often fear of not looking good enough or being flexible enough while practising keeps too many yogi hopefuls from spending time on their mat.
Try this instead:
Practice at home, for 5 minutes a day.
Start with any simple poses you know. Peaceful cat cows, stress releasing forward folds, even powerful warriors.
To turn yoga into a practice, you have to let go of expecting yourself to look a certain way. Be brave and practice at home instead of the studio.
Get to know yourself through your yoga practice. This is magic. This is the power of yoga.
It seems scary to develop a home practice, but you can start with simple, safe movements that will allow you to get in touch with how your body is really feeling every day.
Minimalism (or Simple Intentional Living) can easily become a comparison game. If you think you have to own under a certain amount of possessions or live in an empty, lifeless home to be a minimalist, you’re missing out on the multitude of benefits this way of thinking can bring you.
Try this instead:
Focus on your own life, your own space and look for an item that you truly have no need for. You don’t use it, you don’t plan on using it. It’s just … there. Then donate it.
Do this every day for a week. One item a day for week.
Remove seven unneeded and unused items from your home in a week.
Reflect on the fact that another human may come along, purchase one of these items and get great joy from it. Isn’t that better than it lying around your house?
At the end of the week, how do you feel? Do you notice that you or your home feel any different? Do you want to keep going?
Small, actionable steps in your path to more intentional and healthy living will serve you more than unattainable perfection.
Through our smallest actions, we build confidence, we make progress, and we grow.
Leave a comment below if you give any of these achievable actions a try :)
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I'm not super bendy. There I said it. Every time I discuss this fact openly I wonder, am I bringing too much attention to it? Will others judge me or think I am expecting sympathy? Am I lying to myself and just using it as an excuse? If I worked harder at my asana practice could I do a full lotus pose or an Instagram worthy dancer's pose? Here is a beautiful fact: my 17 years of practicing yoga has been a journey of accepting that I'm really just not that bendy. It has at times made me sad, angry, jealous and I've even hurt myself trying to strike yoga poses I had no business doing. As I grow a little older and (hopefully) a little wiser, my yoga practice has become one of self discovery rather than a goal to achieve. Maybe my body just was designed to take on certain shapes.
Growing up I took dance classes many times a week and at the beginning of these classes we do our warm ups. Picture me, 7 years old, seated on my bum with the soles of my feet together and my knees opening out to the side. In yoga the Sanskrit name for this pose is Baddha Konasana. Back then in my dancing days, we called it butterfly. Call it whatever you please, but when teacher told the class to hug onto both feet and try to bring our noses down towards the ground, it seemed (in my memory anyways) that every little girl or boy in class would *thunk* touch their noses to the ground. I on the other hand would bend about halfway down on a good day. I would pull and pull on my little leg muscles, silently praying that one day I would be as flexible as the others in my classes. This as you may guess, did not ever happen. I could never do the splits or many other ultra flexible poses. I just wasn't that bendy.
Fast forward over 25 years and I am now a yoga teacher. My practice is a daily habit and one that has taken me on a journey of knowledge and growth. Every day I move and breathe and stretch out my (sometimes) aching muscles. I salute the sun, I work on my balance, I meditate and I do my best to keep myself from staying still for too long. Then I go to bed, wake up and every muscle is tight as though yesterday's practice was a dream. I teach many classes where students are much, much more flexible than me. This is a chance for me to practice the Niyama of Santosha (Contentment). This is where my real yoga training really has to kick in. Comparison, jealousy and ego have no productive space in our yoga practice unless we acknowledge them and learn from them. In these moments of self-judgement I work on accepting my body and my practice just the way it is. And I am just not that bendy.
I have had multiple people of all ages tell me that they can't do yoga or don't do yoga because they are "not flexible enough". I like to think I am living breathing proof that those reasons do not need to hold you back from a yoga practice. When I teach and share yoga in a class setting, I am very careful not to encourage students that with time in their practice, one day their legs will straighten in a forward fold, or their heels will touch the ground in a downward facing dog. I have heard that so many times in many classes and I interpret that message as "if you keep practicing you will get bendier and perform the poses better". Maybe that won't happen, and maybe that's okay! I also don't think that should be the goal. Discovering your breath/mind/body in a deeply personal way that only YOU can- that's the stuff yogic dreams are made of. I found a lovely quote that sums it up perfectly for me... "yoga isn't about touching your toes, it's about what you learn on the way down" I might need to get a tattoo of that one day.