As I’m pretty sure I’ve mentioned before, sometimes the words I say when I’m teaching a yoga class seem to appear from thin air. I haven’t planned them or rehearsed them but there they are, being all reflective and wisdom-ish like.
I guess I find my inspiration for what I’ll talk about from observations of my experiences or other’s. Which are really one and the same thing. This is why I can talk of these things and be pretty sure that most people are going to relate to some of what I’m saying.
Because while we all have our own experiences, many of them are shared and/or similar enough in content to be relatable. Shareable. Yes?
So. Tuesday I got to thinking about spaciousness, and how when we tense everything up in our body or mind, there isn’t a huge amount of spaciousness going around. So over-tensing, over-concentrating, over-working, pushing yourself to the limits, killing yourself with running or gym (or intensive yoga) workouts isn’t necessarily helping you.
I told my students what I learned from having a couple of fairly respectable injuries in recent times: you don’t have to push to your edges in order to get the benefit of your yoga practice.
You can do less and it is okay. You don’t have to be sweating like a fiend or waking up sore the next day in order to build strength, stability and openness in your body.
In fact the harder you strain and over-work on strength, stability and openness in your body, the more likely you are to cause an injury. And that’s just on the physical level.
Then there’s the way that pushing too hard mentally can injure your emotional well-being. You judge yourself for not being able to do everything/as well as others in the class. You develop a mindset that says if you’re not pushing yourself to the edge, then you aren’t working hard enough and you won’t get the results you want.
None of this is true, but thinking or acting in these ways can cause physical, mental and/or emotional stress.
And stress is tension. Which makes us feel small and crowded.
But life and our body and mind, feel MUCH better when we have space. When our joints and spine aren’t compacted, we feel better. When we’ve got plenty of time to do the things we want to do, we feel better.
So we practice this in our yoga, and take this idea out into our life.
Be relaxed and comfortable in your poses. Be okay with where you’re at without pushing yourself so hard. Work effectively and functionally, but not excessively.
You will still get stronger.
You will still develop better core strength.
Your body and joints will open over time, to the degree that is possible for your body.
You will find it easier to calm your mind for meditation.
And you will be able to take this sense of calm and spaciousness out into other parts of your life.
So – work as well as you can in your yoga practice, on any given day. Do today, what is appropriate for your health and energy levels today. Do what’s appropriate for you tomorrow, when it is tomorrow. Don’t over-work. Doing your best without straining or forcing is enough.
Find ways to enjoy your practice. You develop more sensitivity and body awareness when you aren’t pushing so hard, because this leaves room to feel subtleties.
You are enough as you are (injured/sick/low energy etc), and you will get the benefits of the practice anyway.
It went something like that, anyway…