Practice Makes Permanent

I’m certainly not the first to say this, but practice does indeed make permanent. Forget what you’ve heard your whole life about practicing to attain perfection, for that will make us all nutty. Note to self (but you can read it, too) – we are not going to attain perfection in this lifetime!

Yesterday, I did a handstand. And then I did it again, and again, several times. It was pretty effortless. I was doing handstand all over the place. In the backyard at the fence! In my office against the wall! How did this happen, when I have struggled with this pose for nigh on five years, even attaining it a year ago, then losing it?

Everyone, including my teacher, told me repeatedly that I was so close, there was no reason that I couldn’t do it. It was probably psychological. Somehow, I didn’t think I could do it, and then the self-talk started, the downward spiral that yoga teacher Christina Sell talks about. Before long, I had convinced myself. I began to notice in class that I would dread handstand, which is actually my favorite pose, because I couldn’t kick up at the wall without help.

The downward spiral began to take hold and affect backbend, which has never been a pose I’m very strong in anyway. I began to dread it, too. As soon as my teacher would tell us to lie on our back, I could feel the dark cloud of “I can’t” beginning to hover over me.

I did a private session with my teacher a few months ago, to focus exclusively on handstand and backbend, but handstand in particular. She gave me an assignment: make three attempts at handstand every day, then walk away. Repeat for one month.

I was faithful to this directive. She told me exactly what to do, how could I not do it? So everyday, I flailed at the wall, making three woeful attempts, sometimes cursing at my ineptitude, but trying anyway, and then walking away.

And guess what? After one month…I still couldn’t do it! But I had developed a habit: for the most part, I try several times almost every day now. I think it’s permanent.

This morning, I was still reveling in my successes of yesterday. Surely I was victorious over this pose! I tried handstand, and never got up. But I reasoned with myself this time. It was early, I wasn’t warmed up, I was sore from class on Saturday. I was gentler with myself. (Well, okay, initially I started to get mad, but I managed to get past it.)

I don’t know if I “have it” or if I will ever “have it forever and ever Amen” and be done with it. I think I am there. But I know that yoga, and handstand in particular, is a pretty ingrained habit for me now.

So whatever you want to do, writing, playing the piano, painting, whatever – why not just make a small attempt at it every day for one month, and see what happens?

Namaste.