Have you ever experienced that moment in class when the teacher demonstrates a pose you have never tried, and you think “hey, that looks easy!” Then when you give it a try you can’t do it at all? Or that moment when you are watching more advanced practitioners do their postures, and you just wish so badly that you could get your body to do what they are doing? Then, the next time you step on your mat you feel the need to push your body because a certain asana has become your goal? I can really only speak from personal experience, but I know that I have had times in my practice where all I could think about was getting my body into a pose - and the fact that I could not get my body to do what my mind thought it should be able to do created tension, frustration and disappointment within my practice.
Over the years, as I have been able to delve into the more subtle layers or yoga, I have been fortunate enough to experience first hand the benefits of slowing down, and allowing my body to develop the strength and flexibility required for asana at its own pace, without my time limits or forceful expectations. This is really not even about calming the ‘ego,’ it is more about the getting out of your own way enough so that you can experience the gifts of the practice along the way. When an asana is your main focus, it is so easy to totally sidestep all the amazing, transformative powers of asana practice.
Here are my top 5 reasons why slowing down will benefit you:
1.You Prevent Possible Injury: This one goes without saying, but I wanted to mention it first because it really is a big deal. As with any form of physical activity, pushing your body in yoga can be a good thing. Sometimes in order to grow you do need to push yourself a little past your current boundaries. That being said, pushing too hard because you have a very specific goal in mind can easily lead you to hurting yourself. You can do serious damage to your body on the mat if you are forceful enough and no asana is worth risking long term pain. In the long run, finding the happy balance between gently pushing your boundaries, and not pushing yourself to the point of danger will make your practice so much more enjoyable, as well as so much safer.
2. You Get To Experience The Joy of Progress: When you are dead set on a goal, it is so easy to get caught up in all the thoughts that tell you that you are not there yet, and thus you cannot be happy or satisfied. In this state of mind you will be negating all the little progress markers along the way - and thus robbing yourself of the joy you could experience from noticing these changes. The option to celebrate progress over being disappointed that you are not at your journeys end is always available, and it will be far more accessible to you if you are able to slow down and appreciate the journey. Either way you will most likely end up at the same place but the the trip you take will look very different.
3. You Will Be Much More Able To Receive The Subtler Gifts Of The Practice: Ahh the little, tiny, shifts that happen on the mat. Those have become my most favorite moments. The moments when you can get your leg just an inch or two straighter in a forward fold, or when you can feel your heart open in a back bend. When you notice yourself letting go of an old resentment you had previously not been able to release, or when you finally sink into a state of deep meditation and the world is a bubble of peace and love. These are the moments that make yoga practice so sacred and special. When you are hell bent on getting into an asana, you may just rob yourself of these magical moments. Trust me, no asana is worth trading the sacredness of this practice.
4. You Will Learn How To Love Yourself In The Mean Time: This is my most favorite lesson that has come from slowing down of all time. I used to struggle so much with being an over achiever. I never felt good enough. No matter how many goals I had reached, how many accomplishments and awards and skills I collected, there was always something else on the horizon I had not done yet. Always a reason that I was not good enough yet. This is a cycle that can literally go on for a whole lifetime, never letting up. When I decided I was going to let my body do its thing, that I was no longer going to push and shove it into posture, I noticed I was able to be proud of all that my body could already do. And so it is in life. If you can give yourself the space to be where you are, you can actually love yourself where you are. Happiness and contentment are available IN THIS MOMENT, even if you still have things you wish to achieve. If you can love you now, you will always be able to love you.
5. You Will Be Able To Translate The Slowing Down Skill Into Your Life: Slow down in your practice, and you will slow down within your breath. This is going to help you slow down within your mind. Once you have slowed, or even momentarily stilled your mind, you are going to connect with your heart. It is inevitable. Once you connect with your heart, your life will start to shift. This is just the way the cookie crumbles. These shifts may be subtle or they may be big. Either way, they are going to be shifting you ever closer to your perfect, most complete and fulfilling life. That is where your heart wants you to be. Slow down. Breath. Listen. All is coming.