We have heard it before and know that less is more however how often do we keep going back in our life adding more, doing more and pushing more, only be reminded that it was better to keep it simple?
Not sure where and why we adopt this attitude that if we just pushed harder we will see better results. With that often comes injury, frustration and anger. One of my favorite Yoga Masters and Authors, Max Strom has written on his blog that we often apply this attitude into every aspect of our life. It isn’t bad to have it occasionally, however as he explains it is just like taking a hammer to your teeth; there is a time and place for it. One of the best places to practice this is on our mat though and then we see how we think, act and behave.
I often see this in simple acts on the mat such as the forward fold; standing or seated – doesn’t matter. Everyone wants to reach their toes. Even though they have been told there isn’t any magic there by reaching the toes, that they aren’t a better yogi and that this fold is so much more than the legs -many still insist on reaching for it. Pushing hard. I often ask them in the standing forward fold to place their hands on the floor and even rest their chest on their legs. To really feel the stretch in the hip, back, neck and let gravity to the rest. Yet there are the few with the fingertips just hanging there in the air, even though I asked everyone to bend the knees to really feel the pose. They want straight legs, they want to push and think that by pushing the hamstring somehow the hands will make it there. Not realizing that what is really missing is the stretch and length in the muscles in and around the spine and hips. They take the ‘hammer’ approach and push. Some I see week after week and tell them to do this again and again; maybe not liking that they have to adjust or they feel weak compared to the way they wish they were.
Fact is though we often care so much about the way it looks or how it compares and again it is so nice to check in with that way of thinking on our mat and apply this to our life elsewhere. Asana is there to teach us about ourselves and many times take us to a place we never knew existed. Letting go of our ego mind and realize that the true self lies not in completing the pose with straight legs. The real yogi is focusing on the breath, concentration, and feeling from within (mind and body) while moving in the asana.
I recently started therapy yoga training and even something as simple as lifting the arms up overhead has been different for me. Usually I throw my arms up quickly reaching up to the ceiling. Never noticing how the front chest gets tight this way. Taking this training and just lifting the arms up with a gentle lift and keeping the front chest soft made a big difference. Still lifting tall and noticing the deep breath into the lungs this way is a wonderful expression of pulling back yet seeing results in the pose.
I often watch beautiful asana poses in my Mysore practice; one’s I may never do in this lifetime. I turn my concentration instead to my mat and feel my body today as it is, sometimes laughing, crying, offering what it needs in the movement, breath and meditation as well (not moving). Reminding myself that what I did yesterday isn’t what I will do now or tomorrow. It is yoga “practice” not “perfection”; therefore allowing myself the space to make errors, fall out, pull back or try something new.