We’ve all heard the phrase “practice makes perfect,” right? While this might feel true to some people out there, as a yoga teacher, I have a much different belief around this saying. In yoga, if we lean into this idea that “practice makes perfect,” then that adds a lot of pressure to the practice, rather than a curious exploration of self.
Plus, what is perfect anyways when it comes to yoga asana? We all have a different skeletal makeup, which makes some of the asana physically impossible…yes, even for people who are very flexible and strong. Also, let’s not forget that this was a practice created thousands of years ago, which meant that people’s bodies and lifestyles are much different than how they are today.
So, because of all this, today I’m dedicating this post to talk about what practice makes progress means in yoga, and how it actually cultivates a stronger sense of commitment to your practice and yourself.
Practice Makes Progress Meaning
The phrase practice makes progress has a pretty literal meaning. It means that chipping away bit by bit every day will result in sustainable, long-term changes both internally (mind and heart) and externally (body).
The great thing about using the phrase “practice makes progress,” rather than “practice makes perfect,” is that there is no longer this pinnacle to reach. Perfection implies there’s a destination, a specific place to land, or way to be. Whereas progress is never ending. Meaning the practice can last forever.
If we achieve “perfection,” then what’s the incentive to keep practicing? The purpose of using “practice makes progress,” encourages a lifetime of consistent practice. Rather than short bursts of figuring out a new skill or two. Cultivating consistency in your yoga practice will help you to build confidence. And also to build constituency and stability in other areas of your life.
How Does Practice Make You Better
So, you’re curious about how your yoga practice can make you better? Although I could write an entire book to answer this question- and, who knows, maybe one day I will- I’ve consolidated it down into 6 key ways in which practice improves your overall life.
While this post is specific to yoga, this can really be applied to most practices in life. Think of it as a way to move in a way that’s created specifically to improve performance in a specific field- doesn’t just have to be yoga. In fact, it doesn’t just have to be movement! You can practice musical instruments, paint, draw, or anything in the arts really.
Consistency is key, and consistency creates progress versus achieving perfection. If you’re curious about starting a yoga practice today, I highly suggest you check out the Absolute Beginner section on my app. Or, better yet, check out my post on the beginner’s guide to starting yoga.
Yoga improves your physical strength, that much can’t be denied. Don’t believe me? Try one of my Vinaysa classes, and report back.
One of the reasons we practice yoga asana is to improve the strength of our physical body, but also to improve our mental and emotional strength. This means that our sense of self is stronger, as we use a mindfulness practice to improve our performance both on and off of the mat.
Engagement in structured activities such as asana will allow some of those chattering busy parts of the brain or mind to power down, as we slip into a flow state of being. There becomes a higher level of awareness, starting with the movement itself- but then trickling into inner awareness, as well. It’s not just about reducing fatty tissue in the body, and replacing it with muscle. It’s about creating strength from the inside out.
Yoga asana is a deliberate practice that helps to improve flexibility for all practitioners. Improving your flexibility on the mat in your physical body, can also be an important factor in improving your flexibility off of the mat as well.
Consider times in which you’re rigid mentally, where you’re close minded, stubborn, or non-gracious. There’s a belief in yoga that open and softening the physical body has the ability to open and soften the mind, as well.
Whether you subscribe to this belief or not, there’s something to be said for the ability to breathe into the discomfort that comes with opening the body through flexibility practices. Taking this practice of breathing through discomfort with you off of the mat, and into your life, will help you to be more responsive and less reactive- which is an act of a flexible mind.
Balancing is a key component in yoga asana. We balance on our feet, our hands, our head- you name it! Why? What’s the point of balancing on one foot anyways?
Well, sport education tells us that balance is crucial for all kinds of activities in a very physical sense. On a more mental level, when we learn how to improve our balance, we learn how to shake and wobble, and even fall with grace. We learn to laugh, and to get up and try again.
Practice makes progress helps you to build more inner trust, because the practice is now endless. There’s no destination to reach (aka perfection), you just get to chip away a little bit every day.
Putting in the work every single day helps to build inner trust, in that you’re making this commitment to yourself to practice daily- you then show up, and actually do it. When we keep the promises we make to ourselves, then our inner trust increases.
Since you’re keeping the promises to yourself, and building inner trust- you might also find that you have stronger commitments overall. I like to think of my brain firing off those little electrical signals or electoral impulses in social, work, or familial settings in the same way it does in my physical practice.
Showing up for yourself every day builds a strong bond within. And it also shows you the depth of your commitment to self. For all my commitment-phobes out there, I can’t recommend taking up a practice of some sort. It does wonders, I swear.
As a result of increased inner trust and stronger commitments, you’ll also find your confidence increase, as well. I find when my confidence is at a high, my nervous system isn’t fried. It’s like all the white matter in my brain is able to more efficiently communicate to other parts of my brain, and in turn, my central nervous system.
Confidence occurs when you make and keep promises to yourself regularly. Consistent practice does exactly that. Whether you’re in high school practicing for your next game, or you’re 75 years old doing gentle stretches every day, just make a concerted effort to show up for you.
That’s what really matters most.
Remember, practice makes progress, my friends.