WORDS FROM STACEY: That's the Practice

Oftentimes students ask me how can they tell when their yoga practice gets better.  We are so wired for the need to constantly improve that we naturally seek it in all aspects of our lives, including yoga.  But here's a little secret: your practice gets better every time you do it.  The beauty of yoga (okay, one of the many beauties of yoga) is that there's a reason it's called a practice.  Because yoga is never perfect.  Because WE are never perfect.  

Does getting “better” at yoga mean that you can stand on your head or hang out for an additional breath in Chaturanga?  Not necessarily.

Does getting “better” at yoga mean that you can sit at the beginning of class and focus on your body and breath, even if it's for 15 seconds?  You're getting closer.

Does getting “better” at yoga mean that you finish your practice and feel open and lighter and present?  Yes, I think so.

I started practicing over 20 years ago.  I fell in love with yoga quickly, and within a short period of time was taking class two to three times a week. My Warriors were deep, my Chaturangas were low, and my shoulders could do things that I can only dream about now.  I would leave class stretched out and calm.  I felt great, but I also don't remember feeling much beyond that.   

Now when I take class or practice at home, I am much more aware of my body and breath.  I can feel the weight on my feet in Warrior 1, if my shoulders are aligned correctly in Chaturanga, and whether or not I'm breathing only in my rib cage.  I realize that some of this awareness comes from being a teacher; I tend to analyze my practice and how it changes day-to-day.  But I also think it comes from being more present in my body and breath.  I have 20+ years of yoga practice behind me, and that is probably the most significant improvement I have made during all that time.

Maybe my hand doesn't reach the floor in Triangle anymore, or I hang out in Down Dog when a teacher gives the option of moving through a vinyasa.  But I end my practice feeling strong and open and present.  And I'm not quite sure the me of 20 years ago could say that.  Yoga doesn't have to be perfect.  If that were the point, many of us would be frustrated after our first few classes.  It can't be, so we shouldn't expect that of it...or of ourselves.  So enjoy your practice wherever it is today.  Practice doesn't make perfect; it makes yoga.