I’ve seen a lot of articles floating around recently about how to “practice” for yoga class. And hey, I get it! It’s a lot more embarrassing to fall on your face in bakasana when you’re in front of a bunch of people than alone in your living room. But the idea that class is a performance to prepare for goes against the foundation of why many people practice yoga. Practicing alongside yogis of different levels and flexibilities is just another challenge on the journey to let go of ego and judgment.
One of my favorite yoga teachers spends a lot of class time reminding students to set their egos aside. It’s so easy to judge ourselves: “The yogi beside me feels good about headstand today. If I don’t take it, I’m going to look weak next to him.” No way, Jose! If you’re not feeling a pose during your practice, don’t take it. You are not required to take a full bind in parsvakonasana unless it’s going to feel good. It’s not a competition; it’s not a race. It’s your class. It’s your practice.
Yoga is a journey with no end. There’s no going until you reach one specific goal, or until you can perform in a certain way. It’s a constant state of physical, mental, and spiritual growth, no matter how “advanced” you are as a practitioner. There’s a lot to practice, too: alignment and breath are just two things that we’re constantly focusing on to make ourselves stronger, safer, and more confident yogis.
YogaDork recently featured a similarly-focused article which introduced readers to a dedicated and passionate yogi named Susan who often cries after class because she doesn’t feel “good enough.” Too many of us allow our practices to revolve around the idea of performance. We berate ourselves if we find that we are too tight to touch our toes today. Instead, we should focus on being, breathing, and enjoying our yoga journey.
So, next time you’re encouraged to try a new pose in class, or want to take that arm balance that’s always given you trouble: go for it. Your teachers will be there to help you do it right. If you fall on your face? Laugh, get up, and try it again. You’re not performing. You’re practicing for no one but yourself.