Take the Performance Out of Your Practice

When everyone is looking inward, there's no need to stand out.
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In our advice column, called Wolf Wisdom, Wolf Terry, a Bhakti Yoga teacher and writer in Denver, Colorado, answers your pressing questions about practicing asana, meditation, mantra, and more. In this post, she covers the tendency to turn your yoga practice into a performance.

Dear Wolf,

As a former dancer, I enjoy the aspect of yoga that lets me tap into my flexibility, as well as the fluidity of a good flow. But it’s difficult to turn off my dancer brain, which wants me to push myself to be bigger and bolder and make my actions pretty rather than intentional. How can I incorporate the positive elements of my training (strong core, flexibility, etc.) without subconsciously turning my time on the mat into a performance?

Sincerely :: No One Puts Baby in Savasana

Dear Baby,

I struggled with taking the performance aspect out of my practice for years. I was also trained as a performer (actor/singer/dancer), and the need for perfection stemmed from the understanding that all eyes were on me. In yoga, they aren’t. Thank goodness.

The beautiful thing about your background in dance is that you have cultivated a ton of discipline. This can be applied to other limbs of yoga beyond asana. For instance, you can be disciplined in thought by practicing aparigraha (nongrasping)—the last yama of the eight limbs of yoga. When you aren’t attached to making the pose look pretty, it’s easier to focus on proper breathing. Similarly, if you’re unattached to nailing a more difficult pose, you’ll be able to modify it to fit your body’s immediate needs.

I have found that the less I aim for perfection and the more I turn my attention to how I feel within the shape, the deeper I’m able to drop into my higher Self and surrender to the flow. In that space, the dance happens with the inhalation and exhalation rather than the placement of my feet or the flourish of my arms reaching toward the sky. That feeling of being completely there for me, and not for other eyes that may or may not be watching, is what keeps me coming back to my mat. And each time I return, there are new types of discipline to cultivate, layers upon layers of discovery. It becomes less about perfection and more about uncovering
the imperfections without judgment.

Keep Dancing :: Wolf