Practice Doesn't Make Perfect

golf image The following piece was written by Traci Klein, Assistant Professor of Dance at Texas A&M International University. Traci is a certified yoga instructor with The Perri Institute for Mind and Body, and will begin teaching adult community yoga classes later this month in Laredo, Texas.

When I was growing up, I was always very good at sports--physical activity came very easily to me. It irked my friends when we would go and try something new, because I would get it right on the first try. I never boasted about it; I just put my mind to whatever the task was, and I tried my darndest to do it correctly. It just so happens that I succeeded every time I tried! With that being said, I am writing this bit because it actually gives me great pleasure to say that in my adult life, I have finally found something that I am no good at no matter how hard I try…the wondrous game of golf!

Now, I say golf, but what I really mean is hitting balls at the driving range. I wouldn’t dare step onto an actual course unless I had taken some lessons and really understood the game. I actually really like to golf, even though more times than not my swings either miss the ball, or completely tear up the green. Still, I genuinely like it! I like it so much that when I find other people who do it regularly, I ask them to take me with them the next time they go. I have tried golfing in four different states now--New York, Florida, Texas, Arizona--and I am still not very good at it. But I don’t care! Do I like it because of the challenge? Maybe.

I think what I really like about golf, though, is the ability to integrate elements of my yoga practice into my practice at the range. At the driving range, every player has their own little slot where they stand and practice. Everyone is silent. Even if you go with your buddies, you don’t talk to each other unless you absolutely have to--and even then it is a whisper. You just zone in on the ball. One thing that I like to do is visualize the form of my swing before I do it--just like an Olympian diver who is trained to see the dive before they even step onto the board. I have also trained myself to use my breath: inhale on the upswing, exhale on the down. On the occasion that the ball actually goes somewhere, I like to think that it was the deep exhale that got it there--just like in Paschimottanasana (aka seated forward bend), when you breathe deeper into the posture and suddenly find your forehead resting on your legs. Just like in yoga, alignment in golf is extremely important. With one type of club you have to line your foot up with the ball, and with another type of club you have the ball right in between your feet. Left arm is straight, right arm is bent, knees are soft and pointing right over your big toes. Line up all of the different elements and you just might hit the darn thing!

I think it’s important to note that I haven’t accepted that I am not good at golf. Instead, I believe that I am just not good at golf right now. If every time I had swung and missed the ball I had felt defeated, or if I had allowed that internal voice to tell me, “you are no good at this…give it up…you are never going to get it,” then I would have stopped going to the driving range a long time ago. One thing that yoga has taught me, though, is to overcome internal obstacles--those devilish voices in our heads that hold us back from physically doing our best. I see it in my students all of the time, and for some of them it freezes them up completely. Their bodies get rigid and they can’t even speak. I want to believe that we can get past these obstacles if we stop apologizing when we make mistakes, and instead just continue to push forward. By doing so, we may find more pleasure in the things that present us with the biggest challenges.

Note: When sending this piece to the blog editor, I was in the process of attaching a letter explaining how I am no good at writing, and how I'd like guidance on how to make it better…and then I stopped when I realized how ironic that was given the concept I had just written about. Stop the silly voices in your head and just do it already!!

-Traci Klein

Photography by Traci Klein