Don’t bring your A game. I first thought of this as a throwaway line previewing my Yoga for Athletes class on Twitter, and then as a clever way to introduce the “B game” concepts of body and breath. But on reflection, the idea of intentionally bringing your B game—doing less, going for 80 percent rather than 90 or 99 or 100—is a big one for those of us who are used to striving, pushing, and competing.
When we work too hard to make a pose or an effort “perfect,” we often get in our own way. Running coaches know to lead even the fastest workouts with cues for relaxation, because an athlete told to give a 90 or 95 percent effort is going to be smoother and more efficient than an athlete flailing to achieve all-out, 100 percent speed. In yoga asana practice, pushing a pose to its limits will at best be counterproductive and at worst be injurious. Muscle fibers contract in self-protection when they are pushed too far, too soon. Aggressive movements can tear and sprain soft tissues, leading to injury. And in a breath or meditation practice, strain creates a cascading response in the nervous system, sending a cue toward fight or flight rather than relaxation and recovery. Consciously staying shy of the edges—doing less than your ego might want, and less than you are capable of—may wind up being the best use of your time and energy on the road and on the mat.
Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good enough. Bring your B game.