February Theme: love your Imperfections
I’m not flexible enough to touch my toes. I’m not strong enough for a headstand. I’m not thin enough for Instagram. I’m not qualified enough for that job. I’m not enough. It’s really funny (or not) how often the words, ‘not enough’ are spoken by so many of us - myself included.
Last week, I came across the subject of wabisabi. The zen buddhist concept of finding the beauty in imperfection and impermanence spoke to me as I had a mini-meltdown about procrastinating so much instead of getting on with my to-do list. I’d been listening to Mado Hesselink on The Yoga Teacher Resource podcast and she brought it up, using the example of a broken bowl being repaired with gold rather than trying to cover up the cracks. By doing so, its ‘imperfections’ they were highlighted instead. I found this so beautiful and helpful. It reminded me to take a step back and be truly grateful for where I am right now, something we can probably all do.
One of the things I hear the most when I tell people I’m a yoga teacher or writer, is ‘Oh, I’m nowhere near flexible enough to do that.’ Or, ‘I couldn’t write a book, I don’t have a story to tell.’ Our inner critic can be so loud that it drowns everything out. So, I’ve decided to make February all about finding beauty in imperfection, silencing our inner critic both on and off the mat. Here are three things that help me when I find myself in that spiral of negative internal thought:
Be kind to your mind
My gorgeous Ashtak Yogi sister, Kristy Robinson, shared a quote with us in India that said, ‘If the words you spoke were written on your skin, would you still be beautiful?’. It’s stuck with me since then but it’s also especially important in relation to how we speak to ourselves. I remember one time, after making quite a small mistake, I spent about 5 minutes being absolutely awful to myself. I was walking down the street asking myself how could I have been so stupid? I was a complete idiot, why did I always have to make things so complicated etc etc etc. Something made me literally stop in my tracks. When I really stopped to listen to how I was speaking to myself, I was appalled. I would never accept being spoken to like that from anybody else, so why was it okay to do it to myself?
Try to take notice of the internal conversation that goes on in your mind. Are you being kind to yourself? Would you speak to your partner or best friend in the same way? This was a huge, huge step in self-acceptance for me. The world will not end because we make mistakes. We’re only human. Treat yourself as you would somebody you really, truly care about.
Recognise your amazingness
Another tool that’s really helped me, has been to list all the things that I do really well. It might be tough at first, to find the things you’re happy with but the idea here, is to build up a bunch of goodness for those days when you need a reminder of how great you really are. My list includes things like: I’m a good driver, I’m a good listener, I make spaces look and feel nice. Small things maybe, but that’s what the beauty of life is all about. Appreciating the small things. Write your list in your favourite journal or a piece of paper and tuck it away somewhere you'll have access to it now and again. And keep on adding to it.
Do less, instead of more
I don’t know about you, but I’m a multitasker. If left unchecked, I’ll be trying to write a blog post while making a yoga class playlist while cooking dinner and cleaning the flat at the same time. My over-optimistic planning mind likes to try and convince me that I can do all of these things at once. But….let’s get real here. We don’t have three pairs of hands, two brains and a butler (well, most of us anyway). And even if you do have a butler, you still only have twenty-four hours in a day. If you’re constantly trying to do a million things at once but failing, and then berating yourself for not striking a single thing off your to-do list, then strip things back. Don’t give your inner critic the chance to lay into you for not being ‘organised enough’ or ‘productive enough’. Doing one thing in a focussed and committed way is more likely to see you get the job done than trying to squeeze it in with everything else. This is something I have to remind myself about every. single. day. But when I do, it helps.
I’m encouraging my students to worry less about what their bodies look like in an asana, whether their leg is straight enough or their backbend deep enough. To really work with and find the beauty and surprise in variations that fit where they are on that given day, even if they know they’re ‘normally’ able to practice in a more advanced way.
As Ritu Ghatoury said: Life’s too short to spend another day at war with yourself.