As a former competitive gymnast, perfection was never an option, it was the rule. Like most adolescent women yearning for validation, I tolerated nothing less than my absolute best at all times. There was rarely discussion around taking care of my physical or emotional needs; my priority was the mastery of the sport. As I transitioned into yoga in my adulthood, I lessened my grip on the external results but internally, the quest for perfection still lingered, only in more covert ways. Through the process of examining my inner-perfectionist, it allowed me to look at the industry I am in and the demands that not only I put on myself but that the culture does on yoga teachers in general.
It hit me like a ton of bricks when I watched my friend and fellow teacher go through an emotional breakdown – and then have to apologize to his community for it. It made me wonder – are we setting up yoga teachers to have to endure the same pressure as celebrities, professional sportsman, and politicians? To have it all together, all the time, to never be able to lose their shit, so to speak? We are teachers of equanimity, balance, and well-being. What happens when we lose our center? Does it delegitimize us as teachers or can we share that vulnerability with our students? It made me reflect on “the practice” and what we aspire to “be” as a result of it.
In my experience, the practice teaches us to accept those moments when we feel out of balance and still manage to love ourselves. To not have to apologize for the fear, the sadness, the grief, and the rage but to see it all as part of the human experience; to create kaivalya, or space around it so that we can see the bigger picture of our karma. It is easy to get caught up in the alignment of the pose, our behavior in the moment, our diet, and our spiritual nature in general as a measure of our “yogi-ness.” But I think the world is in need of less austerity and more authenticity.
I had a realization the other day about Brahma nadi as I was doing my morning practice. Brahma Nadi is the subtle chord of intelligence that we refer to in yoga, which connects the lower consciousness to higher consciousness. When we experience Brahma nadi we experience sattva guna, which is the quality of nature that reflects homeostasis, balance, and connection to the present moment. I used to always think of Brahma nadi as the “golden middle,” where everything aligns itself and comes into perfection. But as I was doing my practice and experiencing the kriyas I realized that, when accessed, Brahma nadi actually allows us to experience our shadow side and not run away from it. Brahma nadi enables us to hold the space to be imperfect and love ourselves still.
So the next time you are practicing yoga or surfing through your Instagram feed and your judging mind comes up, ask yourself if you are truly in your center. And if so, can you let the judging mind exist while not judging yourself for it? That is the witness self, and that is true yoga in action.