July 10, 2013

I’d Rather Be Bad at Ashtanga than Good at Something Else.

I have a fickle personality.

I am both a persistent, stubborn perfectionist and totally lazy at the same time.

I’ve quit a lot things in my life simply because of my insecurities around not being “good enough.” And by “good enough” I mean, the best. I’ve rarely met my lofty expectations of perfection, most likely because I never put in the time and practice necessary to succeed.

Imagine my dilemma, as I’ve transitioned my Ashtanga practice from primary series to second series and my daily routine looks like a reel of bloopers followed by a sequence of epic fails.

I only visit the ease and familiarity of primary series once or twice a week now. I no longer have it there to open up my body for the more vigorous poses of second series. And when, on occasion, I do try all of primary and half of second, it totally wipes me out for the next day of practice.

Second series is full of challenging and unglamorous poses. It requires a different strength than primary (lolasana pickups anyone? Hello!), and even more openness in the hips and back.

But here’s the shocker.

Despite the fact that it’s hard, I love it. Despite the fact that I have these waves of severe and utter hopelessness accompanying my painful kapotasana attempts, I can’t fathom quitting Ashtanga. And in all honesty, I don’t mind that I kind of suck at it. It’s good for my ego to struggle and be forced to take my sweet time building this practice over the course of years.

I realized this when I went to a Level 2 Corepower Yoga class a few months ago out of curiosity.

The class was a total snore for me. Nothing challenged me, and even in the 95 degree heated room, I barely broke a sweat. The class consisted of a lot of crescent lunges, warrior flows and a few scattered vinyasas. The peak pose, ashtavakrasana, was impossible for most of the students in the class. This wasn’t their fault though, because the practice leading up to it did nothing to make that pose accessible or understandable, in my opinion.

But I was good at it.

In fact, I kind of rocked at Corepower. And that was weird. I’m not used to used to that in my practice. Honestly, I didn’t really even like it. I didn’t like how easy it was to move through all these poses. I got bored. It didn’t require any sort of commitment or focus from me.

Sure, occasionally going to a vinyasa class can be fun. It feels cool to be able to bust out these showy poses like birds of paradise, hanumanasana, side crow, full king pigeon—all these poses that Ashtanga has made so available to me, despite the fact they don’t show up in my regular practice.

But I’m not practicing yoga to show off to myself or anyone else. I don’t need my practice to make me feel good about myself, like I’m some sort of luon-clad rockstar.

I like that I have to work my butt off in Ashtanga. I like that I have to work on something for weeks or months on end before I have a breakthrough. This doesn’t make me a masochist, or a life-denier, or whatever other label you want to put on it.

I think it shows that I’m learning patience, despite my ingrained predilection towards instant gratification for most things in life. In yoga, I don’t mind waiting. I don’t mind looking like a mess.

I’m just happy I get to practice every day.


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Ed: Thaddeus Haas

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