By Erin B.
I’m a perfectionist.
I’m not saying that is just my lot in life, but I AM a first born and the only girl. So.
On the outside, it would appear that being a perfectionist has served me well. I earned good grades in high school and college; I have a great job, a great family, a great house. I am hashtag blessed, and that is something I feel both completely grateful for and completely unworthy of at the same time.
Because, you see, on the inside, being a perfectionist hasn’t paid off so well. On the inside, the results look more like crippling anxiety, panic attacks, insomnia, and, particularly, body image issues. Body image in particular, I think, because my body was the one thing I couldn’t master, that I couldn’t perfect. I couldn’t, for the life of me, make my soft, curvy body fit into the thin, willowy cookie cutter provided by society.
And believe me, it wasn’t for lack of trying. I did all the diets. I restricted my calories. I took diet pills that made my heart race and my stomach cramp. I punished my body with hours and hours at the gym. Miles and miles on the treadmill. So many moments missed from the rest of my life.
But it was never enough. There was always more weight to lose, more time to shave off, another race to sign up for. Perfectionism became the nagging voice inside my head, constantly barraging me with words so unkind, I would never even think of uttering them to another human being. Words that pushed me harder and harder until- I just couldn’t push anymore.
Then, another side of perfectionism roared its terrible roar and gnashed its terrible teeth. This perfection monster said, “Hey, if you can’t get it perfect (and you can’t, by the way), why try at all?” And after years and years of trying to reach an unattainable goal, this monster was SUCH a….relief.
It was a relief to throw in the towel. It was a relief to not spend 20 hours at the gym a week, to not count every calorie I put in my body, to throw away the pills that had been tearing me up on the inside for years. But, of course, there was a cost to that, too.
If my obsessive dieting and exercise was a temporary separation of my body and soul, my complete burnout and subsequent giving up was the divorce. My body and soul were no longer even roommates. They had supervised visitation that neither of them ever showed up for.
I lost myself to perfectionism. And it was around this time, while I was trapped under the heavy blanket of depression, isolation, and binge eating that yoga found me.
Yoga called to me in lots of little ways over the years- a class in college, a workshop for using it in the classroom, some studios here and there that felt like home. But it wasn’t until I read Bringing Yoga to Life by Donna Farhi that I really heard the message yoga needed me to hear: “You are enough EXACTLY LIKE YOU ARE. All you need to do is show up.”
The perfectionist in me screamed, “Outrageous!! You are nowhere NEAR enough!!” But, for the first time in my life, I began to question that relentless, tyrannical voice. What if I WAS enough, just as I was? How would that make my life different? Better?
Yoga gave me permission to JUST SHOW UP. As I am. I didn’t need to look a certain way or have a certain level of skill. For the first time in my life, I didn’t wrestle with the lose-lose decision I had chained myself to- either 1. commit 500% of myself until I was completely burn out or 2. just not try at all.
Yoga whispered kindly to me, “Just show up, sweet girl. Just show up as you are.”
And we can all do that, right? We can all show up- not in spite of our imperfections but owning them proudly- ALLOWING them to be the lessons that guide us to the next path in our lives. Allowing them to be the foundation upon which we pull ourselves out from under the heavy, dark blanket of perfectionism and step into the brilliant radiance of who we were always meant to be- into exactly who the world needs us to be.
If any of this resonates with you, check back each month for a simple at home yoga sequence- no experience needed. No perfectionism allowed. Yoga was the reunification of my body and soul. It can be yours, too.
Namaste, beautiful souls.
Beginner Yoga Sequence to Keep You Warm
1.Begin in an easy seated position, which can be any position that feels comfortable to you. Take a few moments to close your eyes, breathe deeply, and drop into your body. Yoga is all about connecting breath and movement, so it is important to continue to bring yourself back to your breath throughout your practice.
2. Come onto your hands and knees with a neutral spine. As you breath in, let your belly button drop towards the floor while bringing your chin up and your head back. This is called Cow.
As you exhale, drop your chin to your chest, suck your belly button up towards the ceiling, arching your back like a cat. This is called Cat.
Continue to follow your breath, doing 8-10 Cat/Cow stretches.
3. Bring your spine back into a neutral position, then curl your toes under, push with your arms, and send your hips towards the ceiling. This is called Downward Facing Dog.
4. Walk your feet forward to your hands and let your arms hang like a rag doll in a standing forward fold. Bend your knees slightly and breathe deeply for several breaths.
5. On an inhale, sweep your arms overhead, stretching your fingertips to the sky, and as you exhale, bring your hands together at your heart center.
6. Now simply reverse the sequence. Sweep your hands over head, then fold forward and breathe deeply. Plant your hands firmly on the ground, and step back into Downward Facing Dog. Gently bend your knees and come into your Cat/Cow stretch.
7. Do this sequence 2 or 3 times to warm up in the morning. Finish from Cat/Cow by bending your knees and folding forward so your forehead and chest touch the floor. Keep your hands stretched out in front of you, or bring your arms back along your sides, palms up. This is called Child’s Pose.