“I am perfect in my imperfections, secure in my insecurities, happy with my choices, strong in times of weakness and beautiful in my own way. I am myself.”
In a yoga practice, it’s easy for us to focus on our imperfections. We look at skilled teachers or social media, and see them doing brilliant postures. We hear of “true yogis” that are able to spend hours meditating. We naturally compare ourselves, and we know that despite our best efforts, we just aren’t there yet. For many of us, we may never be. This class theme is all about letting your students (and yourself) know that that’s ok.
Yoga isn’t an end goal. It’s a practice. By definition, that literally tells us that it’s not meant to be perfect. Instead, it's meant to be a process through which we learn about ourselves, our bodies, and our minds. Yoga is meant to be a tool to learn how/where we can improve, in addition to how/where we don’t need to improve.
Sometimes our imperfections are things we can healthy recognize, work on, and change. Sometimes, they’re things that we should simply accept. Sometimes, they’re unique parts of our lives and personalities that we can celebrate.
However, our imperfections are never something we should be ashamed of. Shame doesn’t change our bodies, it doesn’t strengthen our minds, and it doesn’t develop our practice. Yet, somehow, it often manages to sneak it’s way into our minds, especially when we do physical activities like yoga asana.
If you use this theme in your class, focus on positivity and self-acceptance. Here is one way to approach it.
How to use this theme in a yoga class
Begin by welcoming your students and letting them know that they have a definitive and equal place in your class. As you start the practice, bring your students into a seated meditation or child's pose. Then, invite them to think about what it means to engage in a yoga “practice”. Go on to explain that practice implies they’re each on a unique journey, and that a big part (perhaps the most important) of that journey is making mistakes, looking silly, and enjoying themselves, regardless of if the shape is perfect.
Let your students know that in practice, there are no objectively “hard poses”, every pose has its own potential to be hard or easy depending on the individual practitioner and their unique body. So no one should feel bad about any imperfection within their practice. They can recognize that they might need to modify that particular shape, or build up flexibility or strength in a particular area, particularly if it relates to their safety, however that recognition only needs to serve one purpose –answering the question: “Do I need to adjust or am I ok as I am?” Regardless, there should be no shame, no embarrassment, and no worry.
After your brief introduction, present the mantra at the beginning of this post and ask your students to repeat it to themselves in their heads as you read each line.
I am perfect in my imperfections, secure in my insecurities, happy with my choices, strong in times of weakness and beautiful in my own way. I am myself.
As you move throughout your sequence, pick a few poses that are challenging for the level of class. Challenging the balance of your students can be useful in this respect, since balancing poses are often easy to fall out of without risking injury. The purpose here is to encourage your students to feel comfortable making mistakes. Offer audible words of encouragement as mistakes are made to normalize this in front of the whole group.
Additionally, find a time in class to discuss the fact that all bodies are different. Some students may simply be unable to perform certain postures because of anatomical features. Hip joints for example often vary in depth. Similarly, the proportions of our arms and legs to our torso can affect our expression of certain postures. Explain how these differences are totally normal and make it difficult to compare the yoga of one practitioner to the next.
Invite your students to not only accept that they are wherever they are in their journey as they move through practice, but also remind them to focus on the positive feelings created in their bodies during their yoga practice. Invite them to feel gratitude for all that they do have that is working well for them.
At the end of your class, after Savasana, bring students back to their seated meditation. Ask them to reflect on what was difficult during their practice. Were there any moments that they stumbled or weren’t able to find as deep of an expression as they would have liked?
Encourage them, moving forward, to appreciate that all these minor imperfections are a part of their journey. Invite them to be intentional about what they do when they feel imperfect. They may want to accept the imperfection and move beyond it. They may want to adapt their movement or positioning. In some cases, they may even want to avoid a specific posture. However, they should never be made to feel ashamed.
You might close class by reading the mantra on imperfection one more time.
How do you encourage your students to embrace wherever they are on the yoga journey? Let us know in the comments?