Collaboration Blog: Dennis and Kathy #2

Yoga 4 Change Blog #2 – Practice Makes Perfect

By Dennis and Kathy Lang

June 2, 2016

You know the old saying “practice makes perfect?” You’ve probably heard it a gazillion times and know that it means “regularly doing an activity or skill to become proficient in it”. Many times it relates to playing a musical instrument or doing a physical activity. Back when I was a kid, the saying was used for things like penmanship, spelling, drawing or learning the multiplication tables. As a yogi, we can get caught up in “practice makes perfect” to nail that difficult arm balance or achieve the gravity defying jump back.

Let’s just look at the word “practicing” which Wikipedia defines as “rehearsing a behavior over and over, or engaging in an activity again and again, for the purpose of improving or mastering it”. If we choose to look at this word in a different way and apply it to the mind instead of the body, we can sometimes get a rude awakening. For example, what are you practicing mentally all day? Is it judgement, anxiousness, worry, depression, pessimism, comparison, perfectionism, selfishness, cynicism and neuroticism? If so, those traits are getting stronger and you are mastering them. So shouldn’t we all practice more compassion, kindness, integrity, loyalty, respectfulness, humility, forgiveness, generosity, optimism and lovingness so these get stronger?

The ancient yogis have a beautiful word, samskaras, which refers to the mental impressions, grooves or “scars” that we create in our brain as we repeat the same behavior over and over. The word samskara comes from the Sanskrit sam (complete or joined together) and kara (action, cause, or doing). Repeating samskaras (positive or negative) reinforces them, creating a groove that is difficult to resist. People get caught in the pull of destructive samskaras for many reasons. Humans seek comfort in the familiar even if it is not serving them well anymore. Many times, they are not aware of the negative habitual pattern until they are on the yogic path and start to look inward, intentionally try to know themselves better. The 4th Niyama (Svadhyaya) is all about this.

By working on different techniques, one can learn how to recognize when thoughts or actions are more harmful than beneficial and how to stop them from occurring. The brain’s cognitive processes will be rewired and retrained to develop new patterns (samskaras) that are productive, rational and positive. The scientific term for this is “Neuroplasticity” which is derived from the root words “neuron” and “plastic”. Neuron refers to the nerve cells in our brain and the word plastic means to “mold, sculpt or modify” so neuroplasticity refers to the potential that the brain has to reorganize by creating new neural pathways as it needs. 

I think we all believe that practice makes perfect but the big question is “what are you practicing”? Take time throughout the day to check in with your thoughts and notice what is happening mentally and decide if that is what you want to perfect.

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About the Authors:

Dennis and Kathy Lang are teachers of yoga, meditation and mindfulness practices with E-RYT 200 and RYT 500 certifications from the Asheville Yoga Center in Asheville, NC and are lifelong students and practitioners. They currently reside in Jacksonville, Florida and teach at local studios as well as run retreats in the United States and in Mexico. For more information about Dennis and Kathy please click HERE!


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