Once upon a time, when I was a yoga ninja-in-training, I took an incredibly packed yoga class in Santa Monica, California. We were practicing sun salutations, which involve a move during which you jump from a standing forward fold into a pushup position called chaturanga. Ideally, this transition is executed with quiet ease.
The teacher decided to pluck me out of the crowd of 80 people to use as an example.
“Now, let’s watch Kathryn jump back into chaturanga,” she said. I did exactly what she asked.
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“Isn’t that amazing?” she exclaimed. “Look how tiny she is, and yet when she jumps back to chaturanga, she sounds like a ton of bricks!”
The class erupted into laughter while I melted into an embarrassed pile of failure, wishing I could abracadabra my way out of the mortifying experience.
The teacher proceeded to give tips on ways I could make my jump back smoother and lighter, but the damage had been done. I had crashed down (literally) in front of a group of 80 people. I involuntarily became the butt of the daily yoga joke, and my ego was trashed.
Of course, what I didn’t realize at the time was how far off my concept of failure was. I had translated not doing something well to failure when, in fact, it actually translates simply to learning.
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Every student of every discipline must fall and must “fail.” I tell my students regularly that messing up is a gift to every individual. If we came into a yoga class and executed everything perfectly on the first try, there would be nothing to work toward! There wouldn’t be anything luring us back, no projects to dedicate ourselves to achieving, no celebratory ‘a-ha!’ moments of victory.
Being perfect at something would be horribly boring.
Keep that in mind every time you do something that you consider embarrassing in a yoga class (or anywhere else, for that matter). If you fall flat on your face from crow pose, get back up and laugh! That’s what a child without fear of judgment would do. It’s also a great moment to note, “Okay, so that adjustment didn’t work out so well for me. Good to know. I’ll make sure to not do that again!” Every hiccup, bump, or fall is a teacher in and of itself.
I heard this quote recently, and it’s the perfect way to sum up all of this: “What is the difference between a master and a beginner? The master has failed more times that the beginner has even tried.”
Next time you fall down, pick yourself back up, little ninja. That fall was a mere stamp of progress on your winding road to awareness, strength, and knowledge.
Kathryn Budig is a jet-setting yoga teacher who teaches online at Yogaglo. She is the contributing yoga expert for Women’s Health magazine, a Yoga Journal contributor, yogi-foodie for MindBodyGreen, creator of Gaiam’s Aim True Yoga DVD, co-founder of Poses for Paws, and author of Rodale’s The Women’s Health Big Book of Yoga. Follow her on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or on her site.