Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Perfectionism is irrelevant, in yoga

Everybody says the world is getting worse by every generation. I don't think so. Despite the chaos all around, somewhere it is getting to be a better place. Look at the icons that our kids (and we) love: the sloth bear in Ice Age, Kung Fu Panda, or Shrek, Winnie the Pooh. .. all imperfect, but heroes from where they stand. It means we can all aspire to be heroes without perfectionism coming in the way. We can struggle with our limitations, but still rise up to meet the challenge, limited as we are. I like the powerful suggestion in that: that we did not necessarily be on the pedestal to save the world.  It seems attainable, this sort of being good, where u did not need to be a super man .. Attainable goodness, that is practical. And the world is moving that way..

 Below, what I wrote on the subject for India Abroad, a few years back (if u all are wondering why I am blogging my old articles here, it is because I am trying to wind up the rough draft of my third book this week, and want to focus on that:)  So read on...

Perfectionism does not work in yoga

Yoga, the world’s oldest psychotherapeutic science, spotted perfectionism as a problem aeons ago. It advised practitioners to sacrifice doership at the alter of work by renouncing personal identification with the task. According to karma yoga of action, to do a job really well one must delink from it entirely, without expecting any reward, even enjoyment in the task or feel burdened by the routine.

One must enter what present-day motivators call `the Zone’. Yoga calls this `nishkarmya’. When we do work buoyed by emotions we allow the `smoke to cover the fire, the dust to cloud the mirror’. In essence, we must remove the emotional filter clouding our perceptions. Rather than see what we want accomplished we need to see what needs to be done.

Hatha Yoga Pradipika,the ancient treatise on yoga, by Swami Swatmarama, lists over-exertion – motivated by perfectionism -- as one of the those blocks in the path of a serious yoga practitioner.

Intriguingly, modern day yogi Dr David Frawley too suggests that forceful exercise or meditation practices (that involve the ego) can also block the energy channels or nadis, as badly as do lack of exercise or wrong diet. A good thing can go bad when overdone, seems to be the obvious message here.

Biology of perfectionism:

Neurotic perfectionism is linked to abnormal levels of serotonin, a neuro chemical. People with low serotonin levels extract a heavy toll on themselves, due to low self-esteem which they try to work off through constant striving. On the hand, high serotonin levels aggravate anxiety levels, keeping the person in a keyed up, over-stimulated state which spawns perfectionism. Serotonin, linked to brain’s reward center, modifies behavior and judgment, which get impaired. External approval turns crucial.
In yoga, you are playing with your own soul.. no need for any external applause ..

1 comment:

evnathan said...

A very erudite exposition on Karma Yoga. Thanks you