Practice Makes Progress: A Mantra of Compassion

Nicole Markardt
Practice Makes Progress: A Mantra of Compassion

"While deep in my yoga practice, my body will often begin to shake when I'm challenging her. That is my reminder, my affirmation, that I'm peeling away layers of myself. Our truth lies in that space. The shaking reminds us that we're unfolding. Live your truth, even if the world you leave behind shakes."

I wrote this in my journal after a yoga practice where I felt particularly open.

When first I began my column — Peace, Love & Practice, I was emailed by the editor that I should think of a short tagline that would express to the reader the focus of my column.

Just one line.

I initially found that very difficult. There is so much connection that I hope to make with others, so many stories that I feel pulled to share, and so much of myself that I wish to explore while giving others an opportunity to see themselves in my words.

How would I express this in one line? I chose "Practice Makes Progress."

It's All Practice

For me, this mantra — practice makes progress — could apply to any area of our lives that we are committed to transforming. It is all practice, is it not? Yoga, teaching, forgiveness, compassion, boundary setting, our own personal healing…

All are a constant practice in our personal expansion. Our physical body shakes as we push our limits in yoga practice — an unraveling of our experience where our physical body reminds us that we have yet to come this far, this shaking of sorts may happen in other areas where we practice new ways of being. We may feel unsteadiness, and it may feel as if our whole world is shaking.

Since choosing this tagline for my column, it has become a mantra that I often use when I feel defeated or like I’ve failed somehow.  It always helps me come back to center.  These three words help me cultivate compassion for myself and serve as a reminder that I am building a practice of heart centeredness.

There are three areas of practice that I have found draw me closer to my own progression.

Building Muscle Memory

So much of our behavior is unconscious and learned from childhood. For me, I learned early on that being agreeable was synonymous with being good. I, therefore, learned not to ask directly for what I want. I found that, in adulthood, it seemed as if my needs would not get met because I expected others to inherently know what I needed. I had difficulty expressing my needs because I thought that doing so made me a bad person.

I began practicing listening to how I felt and asking for what I want. That was not something, however, that I could simply start doing. For many of us, that takes practice. Beginning small, we build our practice.

I began to practice tuning in to my feelings and expressing my needs. It felt foreign and extremely uncomfortable at first.

Just as in yoga, our muscles might shake in a pose as we feel discomfort, but as we grow stronger, we build muscle memory and it is less of a challenge. The more we practice, the stronger we become in that particular area. 

Our heart is a muscle. The practice of compassion for ourselves and others can also lead to a more mindful journey where our heart is at the center of our words and actions. We practice building these muscles until we are strong enough to engage them with a bit more ease.

Our Practice Must Change

When I first began a yoga practice, I fell in love with Hot yoga. I craved the heat and the intensity that came along with practicing in such challenging conditions. A lot of my practice involved endurance and mental focus. Over time, I began my love affair with Ashtanga Vinyasa and the practice of building internal heat through breathing techniques. 

I became more knowledgeable and applied more of the Eight Limbs to my day-to-day life. I delved deeper into yogic philosophy and my practice became less about physical endurance as I held a deeper focus inward. I allowed my practice to change as I began to shift in my own needs. 

Very often we get so stuck on the destination that we become rigid in our focus in getting there. Fluidity invites new awareness of our ever-changing needs. If we are trying to practice forgiveness in a relationship, or for ourselves, and find that we are in a state of frustration because that is simply not where we are, we might shift our practice to being with ourselves in our frustration and exploring that. 

Our practice might be in allowing ourselves to be where we are. Remaining open to change is where our journey often begins to take shape.

There is No Such Thing as Failure 

When I began a regular yoga practice and started really studying yogic philosophy, I remember standing in Starbucks one morning. I was running late and had become used to the fast-paced flow that Manhattan teaches if we want to thrive in this city. The barista was chatting with the person in front of me and ended up getting my order wrong. 

I found myself becoming very irritated with this friendly young woman who was trying to do her job in a pleasant manner. 

As I stormed off with my coffee in hand, a twinge of guilt began to pull at me. Here I was — committed to this practice, yet I couldn’t remain compassionate and peaceful when things did not go my way. 

I felt like a failure. But I was not. There is no such thing as failure. It’s all practice and we are not here to be prefect. Practice does not make perfect. 

There Is No Perfect Practice

There is no perfect yoga practice, just as there is no perfect spiritual practice. That can become an ego trap where we suppress our negative emotions because we think that we should not have them. A practice in self-love means loving all parts of ourselves and being with our shadows. 

If today was not your best day, if you were not the best version of yourself, if you stumbled on your words and confused right from left while teaching yoga, if you snapped at a cashier, or if you weren’t the most loving version of yourself — try again tomorrow.

Come back to your practice and allow a new layer to reveal itself. Practice makes progress.

"You can spend your life hoping that

When only you get rid of the fear,

When you are a little bit more enlightened,

When you have built up your self esteem,

Then…

Then, you will show up and give it all.

Or… you can get out of your own way,

Make yourself available,

And bow down to the one who plays you.

Now."

~Chameli Ardagh