Perfectly Imperfect: The Art and Soul of Yoga Practice, Baron Baptiste

I’ve been doing yoga off and on for a long time now. For years, I’ve fallen in love with the motions, poses, and experience of it all, but then fall out of practice and…stay out of practice for several months until a “yoga muse” finds me. And the cycle continues. When I fall out, I feel ashamed of myself. When I’m not flexible or balanced enough, the shame deepens. And I think that’s what has been complicating and undermining my relationship with yoga: instead of being present in my body, I’m racing to this idea of perfection.

Baron Baptiste was raised in a yoga household and has been changing the world with his vision for two and a half decades. His parents were two American yoga pioneers in post-World War II America. Baptiste has trained with gurus in India and taught thousands of people across the globe. He also owns a massive yoga business. Although I don’t genuinely like the “big business” type of people, I bought his book out of curiosity. I thought to myself, “What does this big face have to say about yoga?” Baptiste’s Art and Soul of Yoga Practice really caught me off guard. It didn’t read like a “quick fix to all your problems, give me all your money” type of book. The language was genuine and the message was full of heart and wisdom. He tells a few anecdotes from his own yoga practice where he paints himself as a continuous student, never braggadocios or pompous, and even balances his own stories with stories of students he had. The book doesn’t read as if he is preaching to me, it just reads like an honest man sharing his knowledge. In summary, I have some respect for Baptiste and don’t necessarily view him as a money-monger. This book did more for me than prove the humility and sincerity of its author, though.

Reading Art and Soul of Yoga Practice made me realize why my yoga practice never felt right. And it also made me realize that it’s okay. As the title suggests, we, as humans, are perfectly imperfect. We strive for perfection, we want to impress everyone around us, we desire admiration from others, we expect ourselves to become pros instantly, and we demand too much from ourselves because of our unrealistic expectations. Even though none of those things are positives, we need to be reminded that it’s okay to be imperfect. The first step to fixing a problem is acknowledging that there is one. Once you get comfortable realizing all the ways in which you’re imperfect, you can then discover solutions.

“Embrace the naked truth of who and where you are in your practice and in your life. Hiding is secure, but life is about insecurity. Nothing is guaranteed. If your yoga is really about living fully, then you have to live at risk and in the danger that comes with being your open-book self.”

Baptiste says in his book that “Baptiste yoga is centered around three embodied themes: Be a yes; Give up what you must; and come from You are ready now” (145). In some of the chapters, he covers these concepts in great detail. He also covers other important concepts, such as “true north alignment.” In my understanding, true north alignment is the sense of connection and direction that comes from clarity of mind. Art and Soul of Yoga Practice has been an inspiring read and I look forward to rereading it when I need encouragement. You can find a link to it on Amazon on my Bookshelf.

“As you surrender to the completing pose, be a yes for openness. Be a yes for being yourself. Be a yes for giving yourself over to something greater, to allowing for something new, to holding nothing back.”

A Book That Takes Its Time: An Unhurried Adventure in Creative Mindfulness, a Flow book

I don’t want to promote things that aren’t useful, inspiring, or wholesome. But this book is genuinely all of those things and more. The quiet contemplation and slow appreciation guided me through some of the toughest questions: what makes me who I am, what do I want out of my life, and what matters most to me? Digging deeper into myself put me face to face with those daunting questions. And I have answers for them. Shout out to the wonderful humans at Flow Magazine for creating something so simple, yet so moving.

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I wasn’t expecting anything with this book. My boss recommended it to me and I thought to myself, “Sure, this looks fun and cute.” It turned out to be far more than just fun and cute. With every article, activity, and writing prompt, I felt compelled to think and feel deeper. It opened my eyes to the questions I wasn’t thinking too deeply about.

What makes me who I am? As leading expert in Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction, Jon Kabat Zinn says, “Make a list of what is important to you. Embody it.” And so, I did. My list of important things are as follows: independence, freedom, open-mindedness, originality, creativity, expression, respect, equality, fairness, loyalty, honesty, and mindfulness. Then I started thinking about the ways in which I can live my values.

What do I want out of my life? It was there in front of me, in 6 printed words. “What do you want from life?” I answered: “I want to live life fully and inspire others to do the same.” Then it prompted me to think deeper. “Why do you want that?” I thought harder, then answered: “I want to be happy and I also want others to be happy too.” Then it made things even harder. “What would you do then, for example?” I thought back to moments when people around me told me how much I had inspired them. The feeling of knowing that filled my heart with purpose. So, I answered: “Write books and teach yoga.” And then that lead me even further into my introspective hole of self-discovery.

What matters most to me? With my values in mind and this opening sense of direction, I came to realize that I have to be honest with myself if I want to achieve my dreams. It matters to me that I live deeply and honestly. It matters to me that what I am doing today will get me closer to where I want to be tomorrow. It matters to me that I am embodying my values in every way.

In the smallest and biggest ways, this book changed my life. It helped me evaluate the kind of person I am and the kind of person I want to be. It made me see how what I was doing was not in line with achieving my greatest goals and dreams. And it helped me slow down, think about my every day actions, and be much more grateful. Every day, I wake up in the morning to write in my journal why I am thankful. Today, it was for my life. I am very grateful to have my story, experiences, and present situation. I strive to live with a whole heart, open mind, and present awareness.

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