So here I sit, typing away from my perch on – nope, not a meditation cushion of beautifully embroidered textiles from India – but a stylishly subpar heating pad from my neighborhood drugstore. What happens when you mix “watch me!” with “It’s not cold anymore so I’ll run a 5k today just cause!” and a little splash of “I will master handstand by summer!” determination? For starters, not much Yoga-with-a-capital-Y, and potential for harm as a result. Seems my enthusiastic demonstrating poses while teaching, recent return to the gym circuit plus taking yoga classes myself has taken a toll. You don’t say. Isn’t that how it goes?
So many of us in today’s glorification of busy and have-it-done-yesterday pace push the limits, force things in the pursuit of immediate results, act impulsively as if patience is anything but a virtue. An ancient sage by the name of Kanye West once said, “That that (sic) don’t kill me can only make me stronger.” I beg to differ. I first came to my yoga practice as a physical and mental reprieve from stress once I learned I was actually making myself sick over it. At the time I wrote a piece called “First the Body Whispers” about the importance of listening to and honoring the body throughout each and every day, not just once you’ve landed in the doctor’s office. Our bodies and minds have the amazing ability to process physical and emotional extremes – to a point. Things get rough when we insist on pushing without rest, reprieve and renewal. We risk physical illness, fatigue, stress manifesting at every level, the emotional backlash that can come with exhaustion, injury or being forced to slow down. So what is it that we think we’re missing? That someone else will finish first, jump higher, do it bigger, better, leave us in the dust? Simply put, if it’s harming you to keep up with a perceived race to the top and your true self gets lost in the shuffle, it’s not worth it. You can only do amazing things if you’re truly present, pacing yourself and acting from your heart – none of which crazy stress or pushing beyond your limits can sustain for long.
If you’re of the Type A (++) variety like me, experiment with approaching your work like a yoga practice: you don’t have to nail handstands on Day One. Set goals and stay focused, yes; but be aware of any tendency toward overdoing and recall what brought you to yoga in the first place. For me, yoga represents the antithesis of competition and comparison. I just have to make that part of the practice. You know, being nice to myself! If our bodies reflect our mind, that means that a rigid, defensive, exhausted and exhausting approach to life, work, working out, whatever, will manifest the same qualities in our physical selves.
This is a daily work in progress for me, to let go, to resist the race, to lose the comparisons that make me feel inadequate and thus push myself further physically and further from my heart, my self. Every day I aim to worry less about where I am in comparison to others, and with that effort find increasing peace, self-love, relief and thus a healthier physical and mental being. Perhaps you too can try letting go a bit today, nurturing instead of pushing yourself, and know that all will come as it should with time. Without force. Without the need for perfection or beating yourself up. While I practice this, I take my reminders from the universe where I can, even if that means Kanye and a heating pad. Are you a perfectionist, your own worst critic, a comparison culprit? How have these tendencies shown up in your body or affected your health, and how are you working to rein them in? I’d love to hear from you.
AUTHOR: Elizabeth Rowan