I was looking for yoga videos recently , just something quick to tack onto the end of an hour of studying. I have been thinking a lot about yoga, meditation and the outdoors of late (as I wrote about earlier this week), and I realize that these practices aren’t build suddenly, overnight or in dramatic fashion. I don’t have to attend a yoga retreat, sign up for hour-long daily classes or enroll in horticulture school to benefit from being outdoors, practicing yoga or meditating.
As you may have guessed, I’ve lived until recently with an all-or-nothing perspective, which has ironically (but not surprisingly) yielded few positive results. Perfection = Procrastination, at least in my case.
So it was that I dug around for a quick yoga video and went to my standby yoga guru: Tara Stiles. I love Stiles’ approach because she’s calming without being cheesy and doesn’t try to read inspirational quotes while moving through yoga poses. In fact, I was surprised when I found this video because this is the most I’ve heard Stiles talk at all in a video. As a caveat, I’ve only used a dozen or so of her videos; still, she’s not prone to pontificating.
But as I prepared for this video and listened to her message, it resonates with me. I found myself nodding along. What she says in a quick 30 seconds is what has taken me two decades to learn: Don’t push so hard.
Strength don’t come from a constant, repetitive, balls-to-the-walls approach that is gutting. This isn’t how to develop true, sustainable, lasting strength (either mental or physical). We see these images throughout society, these images of people sweating profusely, faces contorted in pain or effort, muscles bulging as they push through another rep, another set, another challenge.
I’ve met people who subscribe to this philosophy of more is better, push harder, second place is the first loser.
These people are usually miserable and injured. They’re constantly applying tape to themselves, you know, that athletic tape that is a merit badge of extreme effort and unwillingness to quit - even if it injures you and breaks you down.
Stiles speaks to all of this in her video, and then she gets to the yoga. This isn’t my favorite of her yoga videos in terms of the actual yoga, but the message is worth a watch, and the yoga itself was a lovely way to break up a few chapters of counseling theory.
I’ve learned that my body responds best to slow, steady, consistent challenges, to awareness and intention rather than pushing for the sake of pushing. As I workout less, eat better and sleep well, I feel much more energized, happier and calmer than when I try to stick to an extreme plan, wear myself out with intense exercise or push myself to any particular limit, using more effort than necessary. The thing about going all-out in one area is that it leaves us with less energy for the other areas of our lives.
Anyone else? Are you gung-ho and loving it or slow-and-steady like the hare?
I hope everyone is having a beautiful fall week. The weather has been on-point here, and it’s chilly enough to merit a sweater. Sweater-weather is bliss after a hot, muggy, somewhat interminable summer.