The Yoga of Food #5: Practice, Not Perfection

Wanna know a secret? I used to hate. yoga. Yep, you read that right... I loathed it. Why? If my childhood extracurricular trends are any indicator, I'd say it's because you have to practice at it. I always hated to practice anything - piano, ballet, soccer, choir - I just wanted to show up, perform well, and take home my trophy. But it doesn't always work that way.

Yoga, like many things, is a practice. Meaning, you show up repeatedly, with an openness to learn and grow, releasing expectations, and allowing for what is. Unlike your ballet practice, there's no recital that necessitates a perfect performance. For a perfectionist like me, this is what I was used to and what I expected. Man, was it hard to get my head around!

For the first several years I would randomly drop into a class and it was pretty painful for several reasons. I've never been very flexible, the cues are different than those in your average fitness class, and to top it all off I thought I needed to perfectly match the bendy shape the teacher made in order for it to work. So, it hurt, I felt incompetent, and like an outsider.

But then I went to a class that was a series working up to headstands. I LOVE acrobatics and I LOVE being upside down, so that got my attention! Now, I had a purpose. A reason to painfully focus on which way my shoulders were rotating and an indicator that I was making progress. It was the most glorious day when I could successfully stand on my head in the middle of the room, get in and out of it gracefully, and not have a headache the next day!

What changed? I had a passion-driven purpose and a clear vision and I had to be willing to fall (a lot) in order to get there. From that day forward I was hooked! I realized that this practice is all about how it feels in my body and now necessarily how it looks to others. While it was maddening at first, it truly was a welcome relief! It's called a practice for a reason.

It's a lifelong opportunity to grow and build upon what you know, to refine, strengthen, and revel in the sensation that you got a little more hang time in that pose than you did last week! I'm still working toward handstand in the middle of the room, though I've been practicing regularly for years. And I'm ok with that.

Cultivating a healthy food relationship is also a practice. Balance is a moving target. The practice is listening in, honoring the body's requests in THIS moment, which is a different moment than yesterday, and the day before. The practice is honoring the body's requests, and mindfully nourishing as often as possible. Little by little this practice becomes habit; habit becomes lifestyle.

As with any new practice, it takes purpose-driven passion and a clear outcome to get through the painful learning curve. So I ask you to imagine what it might look like if you had a healthy relationship with food? How would you move? How would you feel? What would you do? What is to be gained by listening, honoring, and nourishing? In other words, what do you want for yourself?