Having been brought up in a culture, where “empty barrels make the most noise”, “silence is golden” and where humility and diligence are considered the highest of virtues, is it any wonder that I quietly pursue perfection in all my endeavours? Dare to call me a perfectionist and I’ll look at you like you have no idea. It’s not my fault that your standards are lower than mine. I simply smile at you and end up sitting in the office for an extra two hours, getting those PowerPoint slides just right for our customer meeting the next day. You may not even notice and I most definitely won’t tell you I did.
Until no more.
Disappointingly, there was no great epiphany, but an agonisingly slow process of unlearning a lifelong behaviour of striving for perfection. Even today, I need regular reminders to make more mistakes.
That’s certainly one of the reasons I keep going back to the hot room to practice Bikram Yoga. My calm presence on the mat may fool you, but I completely lack any natural flexibility. My obvious response to this unpleasant shortcoming is to overcompensate it with strength and effort. Surely enough struggle and a bit of force will settle it. But my standard winning formula just dwindles away in the heat of the yoga studio. The more I try to get into a challenging posture without the required flexibility, the more I struggle to breathe normally. It’s frustrating to breathe “in through the nose, out through the nose” when all I want to do is to let out a big, audible sigh. Faking it is just not an option here. Why am I doing this again?
“Falling out, learning how not to”, is my yoga teacher’s advice for the Standing Bow Pulling Pose. We have started by standing on the mat, extending the left arm upwards and bending the right leg towards the bum, grabbing the raised foot with our right fingers. The teacher has then told us to kick the right leg back and up, simultaneously charging the body and left arm forward. In the mirror, I see a girl behind me in a perfect, full expression of Dandayamana-Dhanurasana, her legs in a split. I can barely see my toes above the top of my head. Then I lose my balance and fall out. Great, just great.
Balancing in the Standing Bow posture has taught me the very idea of what yoga practice can give me – the value of the union of a pair of opposites.
Connecting the mind, body and breath, I’m working on developing a balance of my currently domineering strength and my to-date weak flexibility. Instead of perfection, I have an opportunity to strive for balance between effort and the ever-so-difficult surrender, with each of the 26 postures in the Bikram Yoga series. Since every asana is done twice, I get two attempts. Actually, I have even more. As I fall out of the Standing Bow, my teacher encourages me to take a breath and get right back in the posture. “There’s always time”, she says. I find it applies to my life outside the studio, too. I learn from my mistakes, evolve and change. I relax and let go of those nasty perfectionist tendencies. Perfection is overrated!