It's Called Practice for A Reason. There is No Perfect.

We have kept horses for a decade. In the morning, I go to my barn and muck their stalls.  This has become routine for me. A decade in, I find mucking stalls meditative.  When I first began, I had a rigid routine. I fed my dogs, horses, chickens, in that order. I mucked the stalls, turned the horses out, collected eggs, walked the dogs, made lunches for my kids, in that order. It had to be perfect. That was impossible. When the barn aisle was swept, the garden weeded and everything gleaned like an image from House and Garden, there was more shit to shovel, more lunches to make, more weeds to pull and carpools to drive. Life is so messy, the to-do list is endless. Who can keep up?

These days I mosey out to the barn after I’ve had a cup of tea with my husband, dealt with my in-box, and dawdled a bit. One of my horses is getting older. He has a chronic injury and needs his legs wrapped and iced. He makes a mountain of shit in his stall and he can’t be turned out. He is happy to see me and I am happy to see him too. He doesn’t mind that I show up later than I used to. He is forgiving. He lives in the moment. I like to take my time around him now- and I think he senses it. I often don’t sweep the hay from the barn. I take more joy and comfort in this now. I relish the smell of the shavings, the sounds of the horses munching hay, and the way the sun shines on the un-swept floor. I like the feeling of being strong enough to shovel shit and push a wheelbarrow.  It’s become a practice.  It is not about being perfect.

My yoga practice has shifted, too. A decade ago I practiced five or six days a week to “get it right”. I had a rigid routine and would berate myself if I missed a day or couldn’t do the pose correctly. It had to be perfect.

Child’s pose is always on offer? No thank you!

These days my yoga practice is about self-care. Although I can still do a headstand I am more interested in yoga as a spiritual practice.  I don’t judge or berate myself anymore. Instead of watching the teacher’s demos or my neighbor’s perfect form, I am likely to practice with my eyes closed.  I like to feel the postures in my body- it’s not so much about perfect form anymore- it’s about creating internal space.

Child’s pose is always on offer? Yes please!

 I have spent an entire hour in child’s pose.  Breathing in unison with the rest of the yogis in the room was the best thing I could do for myself. That compassion for myself on the mat is what I need most to take off the mat. It’s my practice. I still struggle with wanting to “get it right” and I can still be hard on myself.  Somehow, the more that I stiffen up physically, the more I loosen up spiritually.  I can let things go and enjoy the perfection in imperfect moments that make up my life.

This is why I practice yoga.

Nathan Eldridge