Driven. Focused. Perfectionist. Words that I have always used to describe myself. Words that, at face value, probably connote positive feelings and an admirable work-ethic. I had a drive to succeed that meant I was going to be the best mother, the best wife, the best teacher, the best homemaker, the best at everything I did. My home was always clean, my classroom was always productive, my meals were healthy, my workouts were intense, and on the surface my life was pretty damn close to perfect.
Underneath it all, I was drowning. My need for perfection often meant that I was checking the next thing off of the to-do list rather than enjoying the moments or being fully present in them. It meant I was unable to relax, to recharge, to rejuvenate. It came from a need to prove to everybody else that I was good enough, something I had never really believed. I was exhausted. I knew that I couldn’t possibly keep up with the impossible demands on my time, or the ridiculous expectations I had imposed upon myself. Something needed to change. But I didn’t know how to let go. I didn’t know how to just let it be.
A hip injury led me to the answer. During one of my intense workouts, I realized that something was wrong with my hip. I decided to take a few days off and let it heal, but didn’t want to lose the momentum I had built with daily workouts, so I decided to try yoga again as a filler. I viewed it as a necessary place holder for my real workouts until I could get back to them. I had only done yoga a handful of times, and had never really enjoyed it. I wanted to push myself harder, and was a firm believer that it wasn’t a good workout unless I was dripping in sweat, in pain, and completely spent. I hadn’t ever been able to find that sense of inner peace others had touted as one of the main benefits of yoga. My mind raced, I watched the clock, and wondered why I was bothering with a “workout” that was burning fewer calories than cleaning the house.
But something was different this time. I was at a point in my life where I was totally burnt out. I was so tired of having it all, of doing it all, and never feeling like anything (including me) was enough. This time, I allowed myself to relax, and enjoyed the slower movements, the relaxation, and the ability to slow down my anxious thoughts. Something about it just felt good.
I did it again the next day, and realized that instead of feeling more exhausted than when I began, I actually had more energy to tackle the day. I focused on my breathing. I gave thanks for a body and mind that were healthy and able. That sense of inner peace that had eluded me for so long was something I was now actively cultivating in my life. Something clicked. As I learned the movements and the poses, I was able to keep my eyes closed, concentrate on my breath, and really go with the flow. This was truly the first time in my life I was ever able to do so.
Yoga taught me to be kind to myself. To forgive myself for being human, and actually embrace imperfection. That it was okay to stop when something didn’t feel good. That a few moments in child’s pose was a delicious break from having to have it all figured out. For the first time in my life, I allowed myself to surrender to each moment, to be fully present and aware, and to appreciate myself just the way I was, imperfections and all.
Yoga is now a regular part of my life. It’s not just a workout. It’s a way to honor and appreciate myself, my body, and the rest of the universe to which I am connected. I’ve let go of my unhealthy obsession with perfectionism and accept myself for who I am and where I am in this moment, in every moment. I honor the fact that yoga is a practice, and not one with the end goal of perfectionism, but with connecting mind, body, and spirit. Because of this, I have become a better person, a better wife, a better mother, a better teacher. The irony, of course, is not lost on me.
About Rachel Wiley
Rachel Wiley is a high school English teacher in Washington state, where she lives with her husband and two children. Between grading papers, planning lessons, and writing a blog about education at she spends her time practicing yoga, reading good books, hiking, camping, and enjoying the beautiful scenery of the Pacific Northwest.
Originally posted at: https://wildandfreewiley.wordpress.com/2017/09/15/what-yoga-taught-me-about-teaching/