Pain and Perfectionism

I have recently been dealing with a back problem that was dormant at the start of Teacher Training, but seems to have become more and more severe and prominent in recent days.

Besides making me unable to do certain forward-bending and twisting poses, this pain has also made me keenly aware of the need for continuous perfectionism in Yoga. As Master Shree says, each yoga asana can be adjusted for any student (no matter their level). This is due to the spirit of continuous perfectionism.

Take adho mukha suwasana, for example, the well-loved downward facing dog. For a beginner, we may simply ask the student to get into the pose, lifting their hips up and trying to straighten their legs while bringing their feet to the ground. We might ask them to breathe 5 rounds in the pose, and then relax in child’s pose.

An intermediate student would be asked to consider more details of the posture – suck in the belly, breathe with the throat, hips back, arms flat on the floor, shoulder blades rolled back and scapulae relaxed on the back.

For an advanced student, it would go even deeper into detail – touching upon the direction of muscle rotations, the exact angle of the gaze, the even-distribution of weight throughout the front and back of the posture…

It is this rigour, and commitment to continuous perfectionism that draws me to yoga. There is always more to learn, to perfect, to strengthen, to stretch. By doing the practice, we are both improving and also identifying always ways to do things more perfectly.