Yoga’s forcing me to work on my perfectionism issues

If you’ve read my blog in the past, or if you just know me, you know that I have some issues with perfectionism. And it shows up a lot in my dancing. It gets in the way of really learning what I need to learn in lessons and prevents me from enjoying competing. I LOVE watching others compete, but I often get too anxious to do it myself. Back when I used to compete, I saw competition as a necessary evil. In order to get better at dancing, one must train. That means taking lots of classes and practicing. It’s a lot more fun to practice partner dancing with a partner. And it’s hard to get a dedicated and talented partner to dance with you unless you also commit to competing. Sigh.  So I competed, and I agonized over my imperfections, and I spent far too much time hating myself.

The last few months, as the result of a sports injury and a really nasty cold, I haven’t been dancing much or even undergoing my normal workouts. By the time I buckled down and went to see the Dr. about my injury, I’d been out of dancing and my regular workouts for about a month. And I’d started doing yoga as a way to stay in shape, as a way of doing SOMETHING. My Dr. affirmed my choice of activity and told me to lay off the running to let the injury heal and to stick to yoga.

And yoga has really helped. I’ve started to build some upper body strength and I’ve noticed a significant improvement in my flexibility. What’s really amazing, however, is how yoga practice is starting to change how I feel about myself  in movement. First of all, I’m a beginner, so I don’t expect to be the best in my yoga classes. I see others around me popping up intro cranes and headstands, but I feel no compulsion to do the same. I know I’m not ready for those things. I’m not strong enough yet. And it’s completely, totally ok. Normally I would find not being the best frustrating, but instead I find it freeing. Second of all, yoga doesn’t seem to be about having an audience. Even in a crowded studio, you can still practice as though you’re completely alone. You draw on the energy around you, but at the same time you create a little bubble of isolation for yourself. When I’m in that bubble, I can do my best without fear. And I can mess up without fear too.


Supported headstand pose. Not there yet. Image from Yoga Journal.

I’ve noticed that the few times I’ve focused too much on others in the class, or what they think of me, I’ve started to wobble in my poses. Those have been lousy practices and I felt crappy afterward, not peaceful and strong. But when I focus on myself, on my own breathing and movement, I feel so much better. My muscles are more supple and strong. I can hold a dancer pose without wavering. It’s so empowering.

Dancer Pose. Mine doesn't look quite like this, but someday it will. Image from Yoga Journal.

I’m learning so much. I want to find a way to make this part of my dancing. Actually, I already have. This is what happens when I go social dancing. I have never been able to understand why social dancing makes me feel happy and free. Why it makes me feel so different than competing. I’m still trying to figure it out. I want to find a way to make this sort of joy in movement a conscious choice.

I guess it’s back to the mat, for now. Until my Dr. tells me I’m ready to dance and run again. I’m grateful to have been given this chance to learn, even if it means giving up other things I love for a while.  In a few months, hopefully I’ll be little healthier and wiser too.

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