I’d Rather Be Bad At Ashtanga Than Good At Something Else

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I have a fickle personality in that I am both a persistent, stubborn perfectionist and totally lazy at the same time.

I’ve quit many things in my life simply because of my insecurities around not being “good enough”, and by “good enough” I mean, the best. Mostly, I never met my lofty expectations of perfection because I didn’t put in the time and practice necessary to succeed. Instead of doing scales and boring exercises, I resolutely decided that I should automatically be fantastic at everything and if this wasn’t the case, I would just bail.

Now that I’ve transitioned to primarily practicing Second Series, my Ashtanga yoga practice looks like a reel of awkward bloopers. It’s a daily sequence of epic fails.

I can only visit the ease and familiarity of Primary Series once or twice a week now. I no longer have it there to open up my body for the more vigorous poses of Second Series. When I do occasionally try all Primary and half of Second, it totally wipes me out for the next day of practice.

Second Series is full of challenging and unglamorous poses. It requires a different strength than Primary Series (lolasana pickups? Hullo!) and even more openness in the hips and back.

Despite the fact that it is hard, I really love it. Even though I have these waves of severe and utter hopelessness that accompany my painful kapotasana attempts, I couldn’t even fathom quitting Ashtanga. And in all honesty, I really don’t mind that I kind of suck at it. It’s good for my ego to struggle and be forced to take my sweet time building this practice over the course of years.

I realized this when I went to a Level 2 Corepower Yoga class a few months ago out of curiosity. The class was a total snore for me. Nothing challenged me, and even in the 95 degree heated room, I barely broke a sweat. The class consisted of a lot of crescent lunges, warrior flows and a few scattered vinyasas. The peak pose, ashtavakrasana, was impossible for most of the students in the class. This wasn’t their fault though, because the practice leading up to it did nothing to make that pose accessible or understandable, in my opinion.

But I was good at it. In fact, I kind of rocked at Corepower. And that was weird. I’m not used to that in my practice. Honestly, I didn’t really like it. I didn’t like how easy it was to move through all these poses. I got bored too quickly. It didn’t require any sort of commitment or focus from me.

Occasionally going to a Vinyasa class can be fun. It feels kind of cool to be able to easily bust out these showy poses like birds of paradise, hanumanasana, side crow, full king pigeon – all these poses that Ashtanga has made so available to me, despite the fact that they don’t show up in my regular practice.

But I’m not practicing yoga to show off to myself or anyone else. I don’t need my practice to make me feel good about myself, like I’m some sort of luon-clad rockstar.

I like that I have to work my butt off in Ashtanga. I like that I have to work on something repeatedly for weeks or months before I have a breakthrough. That doesn’t make me a masochist or a life-denier or whatever else you could think about that.

I think what it means is that I’m learning patience, despite my ingrained predilection desiring instant gratification for most things in life. In yoga, I don’t mind waiting. I don’t mind looking like a mess.

I’m just happy I get to practice every day.

Love and Blessings,

Frances

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15 thoughts on “I’d Rather Be Bad At Ashtanga Than Good At Something Else

  1. I love this post Frances! I know how you feel, as I, too, like to be “the best” at what I do… I almost always compare myself to the top “student” in whatever situation I find myself, even if it’s my first time trying something. Ashtanga is the one place where I can work on failing, and failing beautifully, literally falling out of poses, only to get right back up and try again (and often falling again…). And it feels good to try so hard, and still fail! Such a beautiful thing…

    • thanks lindsey ๐Ÿ™‚ always great to hear from you. i love that we are all on this big ol’ ashtanga journey together.
      hope you are having a lovely weekend.
      take care
      f

  2. What a great post. I completely relate to much of what you said- especially not wanting to bother if you can’t be “the best” right away!

    Thanks for sharing ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. I loved my many classes at Corepower but since I moved to a place with no Corepower I’ve grown into a solo Ashtanga practice and a lot of what you write I have totally experienced. Basically it comes down to there being a certain wisdom to the Ashtanga Primary Series. Or 2nd–whatever part you’re at. Like when I build up to a “peak pose” (is there such a thing in Ashtanga?) Let’s just say headstand. I am much more able to do a headstand during an Ashtanga session because the sequence better prepares your body for each pose that comes next. By the time I do headstand, my core and entire body have been sufficiently worked so that pose is much more achievable.

    How would your average vinyasa-flow – goer know what to do on their own? I love that Ashtanga provides you with the template.

    • Thanks for reading and commenting Andy. I totally agree with you about the amazing template Ashtanga offers you to grow and learn how to practice independently.
      Blessings,
      F

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