Small steps

“Sa tu dirgha kala nairantarya satkara-asevito dirdha bhumih.” Yoga Sutra 1.14

Yoga sutra 1.14 is a teaching I must remind myself of daily. Simply put, practice makes perfect. Geshe Michael Roach and Christie McNally offer this translation:

“You must cultivate your practice over an extended period of time; it must be steady, without gaps, and it must be done correctly – for then a firm foundation is laid.”

My practice has definitely deepened over the past two years as I learn and experience more of the yoga teachings. It’s become less vatic in nature with increased commitment and discipline, two things I’ve admittedly struggled with my entire life. The shelves and cupboards in my house are full of half read books, a half-knitted baby sweater for my step-son Logan (he’s nine now), partially completed scrapbooks and various other craft projects. I’m surrounded by constant reminders of my tendency to start personal projects with great intention and excitement but never stick with them long enough to realize the wonderful satisfaction of completion.

The unfinished items I find most amusing are the almost mint condition books on procrastination and how to become more organized. Note to self and to all you other procrastinators and perfectionist types out there: you’ll never finish any of these books. However if you buy enough of them – and they all say pretty much the same thing – you’ll likely end up reading an entire self-help book one day and gain some insight. For me, one of the greatest lessons I’ve learned for overcoming paralyzing perfectionism is to take small steps.

It’s with small steps that I’ve cultivated and deepened my yoga practice. Each day I rise before dawn to complete my morning ritual, or step on my mat or sit for meditation, I feel a sense of accomplishment for taking one more small step on this life-long journey of self-realization. I pause, smile, breathe deeply and thank myself for “showing up”.

As I read this sutra today it motivated me to venture out for an early morning class at NY Loves Yoga. Vacations are ideal excuses to push pause on one’s practice. But not this time. The class was a challenging, fast-paced, flow focused on stoking the fire at the third chakra. Opening and closing the practice with Om Mani Pedme Hum sung to a harmonium, Christine’s infectious energy, and the wonderful sense of community made for an enjoyable second experience at the studio and a fantastic start to my day.

So as I look forward to the next three weeks of intense practice at the Himalayan Institute and taking in the Kumbha Mela, this week’s small, positive steps have added to the foundation upon which I will continue to deepen my practice and embrace this experience.