It’s been an interesting learning designing a new website and as I write this, it’s still a work in progress. Right at the start I thought, I must include some photos of my practice. This will help those new to yoga gain a better understanding before they come to their first class. And yet what a challenge this has been.
I sought advice from my amazing brother-in-law, Richard Garvey-Williams on how to set up the camera. Admittedly he specialises in wildlife and landscape photography 😉 but he gave me some good tips and I was undeterred. I was able to use the wonderful studio at Hereford Yoga Centre, where I practise regularly, and my husband kindly stepped in to work the camera.
On seeing the shots however, I had very, very mixed feelings. It was quite revealing. We’re encouraged from time to time to practise yoga in front of a mirror, but not to become dependent on this as the asana/pose is to be felt from within. Some of my poses were not good, others surprised me. There was no time to take more photos. My reaction reminded me so much of the words of one of my favourite authors and researcher/story-tellers (!), Brene Brown. In her book the Gifts of Imperfection she writes ‘Perfectionism is self-destructive simply because there is no such thing as perfect. Perfection is an unattainable goal. Additionally, perfectionism is more about perception – we want to be perceived as perfect. Again, this is unattainable – there is no way to control perception, regardless of how much time and energy we spend trying.’ And yet how could I use photos where I could see my head wasn’t turned enough or it was too far back and, and, and…
Some people misunderstand Iyengar Yoga as all about being perfect. And yet this is so not the case, but I can sometimes see how they might make this mistake. BKS Iyengar writes on perfection:
‘Do not look at others’ bodies with envy or with superiority. All people are born with different constitutions. Never compare with others.’
His focus on alignment is to allow us to truly experience the enormous depth and joy of the asana. We are always taught to work on our practice, whatever element of practice that might be, asana being just one. This can always be improved but without judgment, cynicism or fear. Self-development never ends.
I am not a slim 20 year old demonstrating really challenging poses on a beach or the edge of a beautiful canyon (I wasn’t doing that in my 20s and didn’t even know people who did!). These were the photos I found when looking for others to use on my website. Admittedly I would love to be able to do these one day, but I certainly won’t be 20, when I do! Yoga for me is so much more. It is about doing the best we can at any one time and knowing that it is enough in that moment. It is about finding courage to take the next step, whatever that might be. As Iyengar writes in his beautiful book Light on Life: ‘You do not need to seek freedom in a different land, for it exists with your own body, heart, mind, and soul.’ Like anything worthwhile, it does, of course, take hard work and practice. I will hold this in mind next time I take a selfie and remember that the turn of the head is there to remind me of the gift and lessons of imperfection. 🙂