THE END OF PERFECTIONISM
by Irena Alda, Yoga teacher
Do you feel that competitiveness rules your life? Do you get angry or upset when things do not turn out your way? Do you feel that whatever you do, it is never enough and you do not feel satisfied? I will tell you something: YOU ARE THE MOST IMPORTANT PERSON IN YOUR LIFE. Not your work, education, salary, body, relationships, home, family, car….YOU. Do not let the world that surrounds us control your life.
Instagram clogs our feeds with pictures of perfect asanas, yogis floating to handstand position and other impossible looking postures. The need to be perfect is constantly pounded into our daily life. We compete against our selves and hold high expectations. This does not only happen in yoga but also in other aspects of our lives.
I was this person during high school. I would set insurmountable goals that were only reachable with serious dedication. If I received anything less than an A+ in an exam, it was unacceptable. My body reflected this; my stomach was a constant ball of nerves and knots. My nails were always breaking, my hair and scalp were dry and I had panic attacks.
By the time I started University, everything seemed that it was going well, until exam period began and my body would react in the same way. I felt I was in a very competitive environment full of pressures. I thought what was happening to me was caused by outside influences, but my worst enemy was my self. I was a perfectionist. I didn’t love or accept myself if I did not reach the goals I set. I remember the day I got home after having sat an exam on mechanics, which was not that hard, (usually we were not that lucky), and because I had not answered a simple question correctly worth two points, I fell apart. I could not keep still; I could not stop the constant flow of negative thoughts. I had to get rid of the pent up energy, and at that time what I would do was to go for a run. It held me together, but it did not prevent the same thing happening again and again. And since all this was not enough, I also entered competitive athletics; I seemed to be in an infinite loop.
Deep down, all I wanted was to be healthy and feel at peace. I wanted good digestion, a strong body and a clear mind. My mother told me “you can´t keep doing this to yourself, you could get an ulcer.” I was shocked. It brought me back to earth. She was right but I could not find the tools I needed to learn to begin this healing journey. I had my ups and downs, when I turned 20 I went to San Diego, California to get my third degree, this is where I entered my first yoga class. The words “stay if you feel comfortable,” “it doesn´t matter if you fall,” “respect your body where it is today.” These thoughts were so alien to my way of thinking. During my years of training and athleticism I focused on being the best and putting all my effort into the training. It was as if my competitiveness was my drug. By the way, the change did not happen over night, it was a process. My tools? Yoga, meditation and a balanced diet.
Unfortunately, the negative thoughts that tortured me in the years of competitive track and field, I also recognize in the yoga community today.
Do not feel bad if you identify being a “perfectionist.” Just learn to re-direct the feelings of perfectionism, allow them to be a lesson in patience, in love for yourself and of acceptance. Remember that the objective is not to put your leg behind your head, but to enjoy the journey and learn from the process.
Yoga is a tool in self-development, not the final means to an end. I have witnessed time and time again that even when your body is prepared to practice an advanced asana you may still not be able to do it. So you try again and again, every day you try it and when you least expect it you blossom. Asanas come and go. Cultivate non-attachment. We do not feel the same every day, enjoy the differences of every day and the diversity and change.
Every opportunity presented to us is one in which we can learn, not drown in. Every person or situation is there to teach us something, and the “problem” is how we view the situation, not the actual situation. It is perception that generates stress, anger, anxiety and sadness and we can change that to feel peace, joy and happiness.
Is there something you can do right now? Of course! To begin with, this asana in the photo that invites you to find acceptance, to find balance between effort and relaxation. Go slowly. I also invite you to use my mantra: “I am alive, I am radiant in health. My heart and my lungs nourish my body. I deserve to be happy and loved.”
A resource that helps your day to day is to create a morning ritual. It could be to drink warm water with lemon, dedicate 5 minutes to conscious breathing, or exercise…whatever works best for you. If you feel like trying something more, you can download my routine for starting the day here, where I share my method to find balance and acceptance in your day-to-day life.
The practice I follow today varies, I move every day on my mat. Sometimes I work on strength, and sometimes I make space for introspection and flexibility and sometimes I simply place my legs against the wall for 10 minutes (instant relaxation.) I love to set myself goals and to have fun attaining them. I live with curiosity and humility, laughing if I fall and feeling surprise when I don´t. Running is still part of my life, it is my mediation in movement. I concentrate on my breath, my stride and the sounds around me.
Irene is 24 years old and holds a PHD in Physics in Barcelona. She has been teaching yoga for 4 years, which began with the intention of finding “balance and acceptance.” She also likes to go running and discover new tasty recipes. Irene focuses on finding tools of personal development and growth through yoga and nutrition. In our day-to-day lives we are exposed to so much information, expectations and competiveness. We need something to return us to the earth, to center us, to give us internal peace and to help us find happiness within.
Her classes are intense but always flow, creating strength, flexibility and with time to play and experiment. The instruction is direct, giving space for each student to have time for introspection. Her classes also include an element of Thai massage. Go ahead and try a yoga class! https://www.irenealda.com