Perfectionism is something I have struggled with throughout my life. Sure, perfectionism can help us reach our goals and accomplishments. However, when things don’t go the way we want them to, it can feed feelings of stress and failure.
At age 8, I began dreaming of one day playing in the NFL. Later, that dream turned into an obsession that I was going to achieve at all costs. I beat up my body with relentless overtraining. I abused my mind and spirit, believing that the only way to be happy was with a long, successful career in the NFL.
After my senior year at the University of Pittsburgh, I signed my first NFL contract, with the Detroit Lions. Five months later, I was cut. The following year I landed a contract with the Indianapolis Colts. After three months, I was let go due to an injury. Next, I signed with the New York Jets. But after another injury, that team cut me too.
As I bounced between teams for years, I ignored the pain from my chronic injuries and kept fighting to keep my career going. As I struggled throughout my NFL life, I told myself I was a failure. At times I found myself counting change to pay for gas, struggling to support my wife and child, and I felt that I was letting my family down.
In the meantime, my wife Karen was growing her yoga practice and had become a teacher. Repeatedly, she’d urge me to try it, pointing out that the movements and compassionate approach would help my body and soul. Rather than listen, I continued toward rock bottom. Eventually, my NFL career crashed, and so did I. The day I realized I had nothing left to lose was the day I decided to take Karen’s advice.
Practicing yoga saved me. It jump-started a cascade of self-discovery, and the more I practiced, the more my understanding of and connection to myself grew. I learned how to control my fears, self-doubts, and worries, instead of letting them control me. I let go of my need to be perfect. Soon I began to see my failures as opportunities. Each had led me to a new path, including yoga.
A yoga practice is just that, a practice. It is not about perfecting anything. When we strive for flawlessness in yoga and in life, we are trying too hard. We end up stressing and straining our bodies and minds. Perfectionism can damage our self-esteem, affect our health, and put excessive pressure on our relationships.
The following sequence will help you find balance and release the nagging need to be perfect. It strengthens your arms, core, and mind while relieving tension and cultivating softness. It is a practice of challenging yourself while being gentle on yourself.
10 Poses to Release Perfectionism and Boost Inner Peace
See also A Sequence for Feeling Empowered