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 the others do more advanced 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’t speak for everyone, but I know I’ve had times in my practice where all I could think about was getting my body into a pose—and when I couldn’t get my body to do what my mind thought it should be able to do, it created tension, frustration and disappointment within my practice.
Over the years, as I delved into the more subtle layers of yoga, I’ve been fortunate enough to experience firsthand the benefits of slowing down, and allowing my body to develop the strength and flexibility required for asana—without my time limits or forceful expectations.
When an asana is your main focus, it’s so easy to totally sidestep all the amazing, transformative powers of asana practice. So here are my top 5 reasons why slowing down will benefit you:
1. You Prevent Possible Injury
This 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 you do need to push yourself a little past your boundaries so you can grow. However, 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 limits, and staying within physically safe boundaries, will make your practice so much more enjoyable, as well as so much safer.
2. You Experience The Joy of Progress
When you are dead set on a goal, it’s easy to get caught up in thoughts that tell you ‘you are not there yet,’ and this prevents you from being happy or satisfied. This state of mind will negate all the little progress markers along the way – and you rob yourself of the joy you could experience from noticing these changes.
Choose to celebrate progress instead of being disappointed that you are not at your journey’s end. And this will be much easier to do if you can slow down and appreciate the journey. Either way, you will most likely end up at the same place but the trip you take will look very different.
3. You Become 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; moments when you can get your leg just an inch or two straighter in a Forward Fold, when you feel your heart open in a back bend, when you finally let go of an old resentment, or when you sink into a state of deep meditation and the world becomes 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 To Love Yourself In The Meantime
This is my all-time, most favorite lesson that has come from slowing down. I used to struggle so much with being an overachiever. No matter how many goals, accomplishments, awards and skills I collected, there was always something else on the horizon I knew I hadn’t done yet and always a reason that I wasn’t good enough yet.
This cycle can literally go on for a lifetime, never letting up. When I decided I was going to let my body do its own thing and not push it into posture, I noticed I was able to become proud of all that my body could already do. 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 in turn, will 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.
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. Breathe. Listen. All is coming.