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Embracing the Badness to Beat Yoga Perfectionism

Four years ago, I was stuck: I was stuck at a college in which I felt I didn’t belong; stuck in my own head and fighting the confines of my own limited self-worth; stuck in my own body, and mostly, stuck in my own desire to nail down perfection—as if that’s a thing that exists at all.

So I wandered into a hot yoga studio down the street from my university, seduced by the $25 monthly unlimited intro package, and by the clear-headed comfort I felt upon emerging from just a few classes.

I never thought I would get stuck in yoga.

Needless to say, we live in a culture that cultivates perfectionism: We see dozens of ads every day touting the “perfect body,” we can use what is essentially at-home Photoshop on a smartphone to tweak our own pictures, we can view what anyone and everyone is doing online at any time. We think of being “perfect” as being good enough, as being worthy—or at least, I did (and sometimes still do, if I’m being standing-here-naked levels of honest). If I was really “good enough,” I wouldn’t ever feel bad. If I could achieve “good enough,” everything would be okay. If I could only be “good enough,” people would like me. The list of things I felt I needed to fix about myself was enough to make you hit the snooze button and go back to bed. Depressing, right?

The deeper I slipped into this “yoga world,” the more I realized the perfectionism disease was as rampant as Manduka mats: There were so many rights and wrongs, so many rules, so many instances where people felt they were superior beings because they did a thing a certain way. The diehard devotees made it clear they were operating on a different, higher plane of understanding—that they had the power to bestow their knowledge upon you, that doing things the “right” way would make you smarter, more meditative, more enlightened, thinner, and a better human being. Better, not as in “I’m going to be the best version of me!” Better, as in “I’m going to be better than the person next to me.”

I got stuck wondering why I didn’t look like the person next to me (probably because they were 5’8 and blonde and I’m 5’2 and…not). I got stuck thinking the world would come to an end and the yoga gods would revoke my membership card if I so much as thought about eating “bad.” I got stuck trying to live up to another form of perfection—this time, one that came in the form of supposedly “feeling good.”

To be honest, I am not sure when it clicked with me that something that was supposed to make you feel good probably shouldn’t make you feel bad. And it definitely shouldn’t make you feel less than. And it probably shouldn’t make you feel like owning a $100 pair of stretchy pants renders you a member of the “club.”

IMG_4657-300x300So I wandered into a yoga studio, again…my own this time. It’s just a tiny corner of a studio space, where we offer community classes that are all about feeling good and routinely have Fetty Wap on the playlist. We don’t use abs and oms as motivational tactics, and nobody gets shhhh-ed when they laugh.

It has taken me so long to realize this it is almost embarrassing, but here it is: You don’t have to earn the right to feel good in your own skin. You don’t have to be perfect to be worthy of feeling good. And the best kind of yoga is the kind that feels amazing TO YOU, not just the kind you’ve memorized the Sanskrit names for, or the sort that looks impressive through an Instagram filter.

Embrace the badness. Because sometimes, it feels so, so good.

I don’t think it is a coincidence that life AND yoga feel tremendously better when we’re comfortable in our own skin, when we’re doing our own thing in a way that makes us feel like we’ve hit our own personal groove. So why fight it? Why spend so much time trying that contortionist-level pose when a good old Down Dog might feel best anyway? Why spend so much time trying to be perfect, when we can be good?

When we do, we might find that that bad person has been pretty good, pretty worthy, and pretty yoga all along.

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  1. Megan Reddix

    Megan Reddix

    June 1, 2016 at 8:21 am

    What an incredible message to share! It’s so unfortunately that people who claim to be loving and care about every inch of the earth can be so judgmental and so hateful. Yes, it is human nature to judge others and, of course, to judge ourselves – however we need to recognize the negativity that we proclaim and somehow reel it back in. Thank you for sharing this story!

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    June 1, 2016 at 8:52 am

    Love it!:-*

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    June 7, 2016 at 12:11 pm

    As a person that is just starting out on my yoga journey I really appreciate your post. I haven’t felt judged or anything but that would really suck. I try not to look around at the other people and think they are better than me, more I look at them to try to get ideas for how to better get into poses. Your thoughts are very affirming, thank you so much!

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