My dear friend and neighbor gifted me this rock from her travels to healing places of the country. I knew I wanted to use it in our studio design, and the inspiration struck one day after a long afternoon of physical labor. I would write “Leave your shoes and your ego here,” like so many yoga studios do. But, that saying didn’t really convey what I wanted it to. I wanted something closer to the truth, closer to what the real challenge is, and a more palpable way to remember this – yoga or life – isn’t a performance art. My favorite words from Brene Brown came to mind: a bandon perfection.
I have lived life as performance. Like so many of us, I have curated a view of what I thought would please people around me in order to win their affection or attention. When I first came to yoga, the performance aspect appealed to me. If I worked hard enough, I could do those poses, and people would validate me. “You’re so strong! Look at you go! I could never do that! So inspiring!” When a teacher used me to demonstrate a pose in class, I swelled with pride and ego.
Losing all my muscular strength (as well as my hair, eyesight, and occasional bowel control … as long as we’re being honest) to illness in 2013 broke me. I became resentful of other people who were achieving the things I could no longer achieve. People met goals I’d set years ago and had only watched get further away for me.
Eventually, my brokenness became my gift. I decided I’d share my story, and I’d do it honestly and truthfully. I told my yoga students about my doubt, my weakness, and my fear. I told them I felt lost in a world where everyone preached love and light when I was up to my ears in rejection. I told them I didn’t, in fact, start each day with a green smoothie and end it with gluten-free, sugar-free, homemade muffins. Turns out, they had all those feelings, too, and they had slipped in some cheese and full-gluten-crackers in place of smoothies as well. I abandoned perfection, and in doing so I found something better: connection.
You don’t have to be perfect to come to your mat. You don’t have to meditate 40 minutes a day and replace your coffee with lemon water. Yoga will always meet you exactly where you are. I will, too.