Lancashire Yogi, is probably like many people in that he is afraid of making mistakes, and fights shy of ‘failure’. On the mat and off the mat he wants a perfect world: pure and successful. On the mat he wants a perfect Tadasana, a scintillating Warrior, an outstanding Trikonasana, an elegant Natarajasana. Off the mat, Lancashire Yogi seeks the perfect outcomes in his business, a beautiful garden, a perfect life. As he has previously blogged: Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita says that you shouldn’t seek the fruits of your labours, rather you should just ‘be’ and follow the process. So intellectually, Lancashire Yogi is attuned to this. However emotionally and egotistically, he still is chained to the notion of success and avoids ‘failure’. It’s a life-long practice – and journey.
But, and here’s the paradox – if you don’t make mistakes, you don’t learn – or at the very least, you certainly don’t have such a rich, deep and wide learning than if you do make mistakes. So how to make mistakes and learn from them? Infact, how do you make mistakes, learn from them and evolve as a result?
The first thing is to be open to the idea of giving yourself licence to make mistakes or fail. The idea here is to seek to just do the practice in a mindful way. In a sense you are doing, ‘being’. The trick is to make your focus the process of whatever asana you are doing, and once you have made that leap, the next step is to make the ‘doing’ (the asana) change to a focus on simply being. In other words – be mindful of whatever it is that you are doing. Let it happen. Observe but don’t judge.
So for example, let the asanas emerge from your being – from your centre and feel into the asana with your body, mind and breath. Your breath is a great way to focus the mind if it wanders. If you focus on your breathing and the asana you should find yourself becoming mindful and immersed in the process of the posture. Some people, including Lancashire Yogi have very untamed minds and they monkey around, swinging from one thought to another. Don’t let your monkey mind tell you you are good or bad, or your neighbouring yogi is ten times better, or fitter or trimmer – or you are better than them, or that you are doing the most perfect asana. If it does, focus on your breathing and your body in the asasna. You will soon receive feedback from your body or your teacher if your asana is not working for you, and with that feedback you can if you wish, learn quickly how to modify or improve the asana and then again, immerse yourself in body and mind in the asana.
The same principle applies off the mat. Just be. You don’t need to set high expectations or strive for success or to avoid failure.You’ll receive feedback from yourself or others to help you improve or modify what you are doing. If you respond to that feedback, you can learn quickly and carry on enjoying what you are doing in a mindful way. In the longer term you will evolve well.
This process reminds Lancashire Yogi of a self-evaluation and improvement model or cycle called the PDSA cycle. Lancashire Yogi has appropriated it from the Institute for Health Improvement (http://bit.ly/oADoK3) – where it is heavily promoted for use in evaluating changes in health services. If it’s good for health improvement – it must be good for yoga!
You could adopt it with your yoga practice on and off the mat. P stands for Plan. D stands for Do. S means Study. A stands for Act. So, you could plan your asana (or anything on or off the mat), do it, study the result, and then act to make improvements using feedback and information that you have about your asana or othe practices. It’s a neat model and takes you swifty away from the succeed/fail cycle to a continuous and evolving life on and off mat.
Lancashire Yogi thinks that tools like the PDSA cycle can help you continuously evolve and improve.
Your practice can be given a real boost if you adopt an openess and a willingness to go with the flow of your practice through mindfulness, breath awareness and a focus on your body. A fearlessness about so called ‘failure’ and a committment to focus on being in the asana can help you fail fast – learn quick and evolve well.