Springsteen & Yoga
By Patty McCormick, December, 2017
The first time Bruce Springsteen heard the studio recording of his album Born To Run, he was so unhappy with it, he threw the record in a nearby swimming pool. All he could hear was what was wrong with it. Fortunately, his manager had a different perspective. “Sometimes,” his manager said, “the things that are wrong with something are the things that make it great.”
When I’m refining my yoga practice, I can be a little like Bruce. My knee isn’t anywhere close to a 90-degree angle in standing poses. The arches of my feet are collapsing. My tree looks like a weed. But when I look around the room and see someone’s arm shaking during side plank, I think it’s beautiful. When I see the guy with the tight hamstrings struggling to touch his toes in a forward bend, I’m moved. And when I notice someone’s ankle quaking in tree pose, it’s touching. Because to me it’s the trying that’s beautiful. It’s the effort that’s moving. It’s the attempt that’s heroic. I often feel big rushes of emotion in class—sometimes a welling-up of love for all these human beings who summon the courage to set aside their defenses and try.
We don’t come to yoga class because we’ve got it all figured out. We come, in community with each other, to break old habits, knock down walls, and gain new insights. We also come to practice radical acceptance—not just tolerance for our foibles and our limitations, but a peaceful, even amused, appreciation for our humanity.
When Rodney or Colleen come over and gently reposition the one person out of 66 who didn’t follow the instructions (that was me recently, with the bolster crosswise instead of lengthwise), we see radical acceptance in action. We feel seen and cared for exactly as we are.
Why is it so much easier for me to lovingly accept the foibles of others while I sit in judgement of my own? It’s complicated. But one possibility is that I’m too attached to a particular outcome—to “achieving” a pose, or a particular idea of that pose—the same way Bruce Springsteen may have had some indescribable version of perfection in mind for his album. To me, though, that album is perfect, in part because he and the band gave it their all.
One way to answer my question, I suppose, is to ask myself if I’m giving my all. If I’m busy criticizing myself, then I’m not giving my all, because a part of me is undermining the rest of me. The other answer is to include myself in that radical acceptance as I look around the room. To love my mistakes as much as I love my successes. Instead of throwing the record in the pool, maybe I just need to play it again and see if I can hear it differently.