A More Perfect Yoga PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Beth Lapides   

Beth Lapides
Beth Lapides
One of my teachers describes the ultimate expression of a pose to his mostly beginning students with the phrase: In a perfect Yoga world. For instance he might say: In a perfect Yoga world, your head would meet your foot.

On good days In a perfect Yoga world helps me see how even with my head meeting my foot there is always a deeper place to travel to in a pose. But on bad days I can’t help but think: In a perfect Yoga world I wouldn’t even be in this class.

Not that I mind practicing with beginners. In fact I love it. Sometimes. But because of peculiarities of time and space, of scheduling and geography, I find myself fifteen years into my Yoga practice, practicing mostly basics, with mostly beginners. At a gym. I tried to find the Yoga of the situation. I looked to the yamas and niyamas. I practiced svidyayha, self-study, almost obsessively so since the gym Yoga happened in a room lined with mirrors. I practiced ahimsa, nonviolence, by not beating myself up when I caught a glimpse of my bulging thighs. Ok it wasn’t a perfect Yoga world. Except that for me, any world that includes Yoga is perfect.

And then my yearly gym membership ran out

I sat down to have a heart to heart with my credit cards. They told me they were tired and to talk to my checkbook. My checkbook was busy with my rapidly escalating insurance. I argued that Yoga is a kind of insurance. And my checkbook agreed. That was one of so many reasons it had paid for fifteen years of yearlies. But now, with those thousands of Yoga classes inside me, couldn’t I practice on my own? Just for now?

I felt panicky at letting go of this one bit of structure in my freelance, self-employed, independent contractor Hollywood hyphenate life. I felt overwhelmed at the thought of not having a teacher bossing me around to balance out my own bossiness. I felt out of emotional alignment at the idea of now not only not having a doctor I trusted who knew my body, but not even having a trained Yoga professional keeping an eye on my physical alignment.

There was only one thing to do. Try the old challenge/opportunity switcheroo and decide that practicing on my own at home was the best thing that ever happened to me. I was going to go deeper and integrate my practice more thoroughly into my day-to-day life. Live in a more perfect Yoga world.

A perfect union, a perfect Yoga, has nothing to do with being correct. It has everything to do with a willingness to change together, to evolve towards a perfect Yoga world.

I shifted to a completely vegan diet. I enjoined Greg to do a one minute Om namah shivayah meditation at the beginning and end of every day. I borrowed Yoga DVDs from the library. Downloaded classes. Rolled on my YogaTune-Up® balls. Connected with yogis on Facebook. Did my elliptical machine with yogic awareness. Attempted yogic sleep with exercises that lead to lucid dreaming. Lay on the spikey Shakti mat while watching TV. Chanted at my keyboard. Opened thousands of emails from Yoga studios. Taught Yoga to total beginner friends. Learned how to work with shiva lignham to take advantage of the energy of pradosham. Put my legs up the wall on long phone calls. Thought about money as energy Studied the correspondences between crystals and chakras.

In a way being cut loose from any regular class really was the best thing that had ever happened to my practice. But I felt restless. Was I really doing as much as I could? Was I giving in to my weakness of over-thinking and under-doing? Was I being too easy on myself or too hard? Was I really practicing perfectly?

I was at my desk one day, headphones on, having just finished a pineal gland/third eye meditation exercise to a Tom Kenyon download (link to this amazing free audio on bethlapides.com) I felt very tuned in. And when I opened my eyes I noticed my New Year’s circle. Inside the hand-drawn circle I’d written all the things I wanted to keep and cultivate, outside it all the things I wanted to leave behind. And in big letters, definitively on the outside of the circle I’d written: The Perfectionist Thing.

Soon after this, a Tarot reader at a wedding suggested that my high standards, for myself and for others, might not be serving me. And I had to admit that I was driving myself crazy. And of course when you drive yourself crazy, you’re taking jobs away from other people. It’s like your own personal NAFTA.

One of ‘my’ online teachers reminded me that the Sanskrit word for perfect, purna also means full. I tried to shift from thinking about perfectionism as a search for rightness, or flawlessness to fullness. As in being yogically full – of life. Not Hollywood full – of myself.

I went to double check the translation on Google. More obsessive Type A behavior. I input ‘Sanskrit English translation perfect’. But I didn’t get purna. I got the translation of the word Sanskrit itself which essentially means…perfect!

Sanskrit is formed from sam meaning ‘entirely’ or ‘wholly’ or ‘perfectly,’ and krit means ‘done.’ Perfectly done. Which, I couldn’t help but notice, is also a phrase people apply to steak. But it made me want to know Sanskrit more fully, and so I put study Sanskrit on my list.

Then, in the course of another project, with perfection percolating in my mind, I was re-reading the Constitution of The United States. “We the people, in order to form a more perfect union…” it begins.

Of course Yoga means union and being a yogi I couldn’t help but read that line as “We the people, in order to form a more perfect Yoga world.” And it struck me that the American experience is a Yoga experience. A union of “states”, a melting pot of nationalities,
a oneness of high ideals and low brow culture. That in these fifteen years practicing Yoga in classes maybe I’d been a little lax in my responsibilities as a citizen. Maybe in my search for the perfect practice I’d been neglecting what it means to be an American Yogi. Maybe the political landscape, which has become so dreary, is calling out for yogis to be yogis. Loudly and proudly.

A more perfect union. Because in Yoga, as in America, we’re perfecting the union. The oneness. A perfect union, a perfect yoga, has nothing to do with being correct. It has everything to do with a willingness to change together, to evolve towards a perfect Yoga world.

So, as much as I miss classes with advanced yogis doing accelerated arm balances and heart-baring backbends, I am trying to see how my years of classes have been training for the Yoga of life. Where I practice fully. Sometimes on a mat, sometimes on a stage and sometimes in bed. Where the idea of a more perfect union gets a whole new spin.

Follow Beth Lapides’ perfect Yoga journey on Twitter, on her Facebook Fan Page, the LA YOGA website or via podcast. Invite her to your Yoga studio at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or visit her website at: bethlapides.com.

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