Should I push through my asana, pranayama, or meditation?
by Ashley O.
“At no point in time do we want to feel tension” - Rose Baudin
Do you use your yoga practice as a measure of success? Or, do you let yourself be okay with progress over perfection? Do you push yourself to sit impatiently in meditation fixated on the swirling thoughts with anger... or do sit with the thoughts approaching them with a little friendliness?
It’s okay to be still, and it’s also okay to go all out, as long as you are staying in the process. In the place of being somewhere between what you’ve done and what you’ll do next, that's often where Yoga's lessons can become most clear.
Notice that you're striving, pushing beyond your edge? What’s the motive when pushing so hard with tension in an asana? What’s the mind-body connection? Ask yourself, is it ego based? Why push? What might it be like to approach challenge with illuminated intelligence, with detachment, so you don’t bring on injury?
When I began my yoga practice I wanted every 'advanced' asana pose.
Every second in a handstand mattered.
What did it get me? Injured.
It wasn’t until I realized, through some work with amazing teachers, that the pose isn’t my goal - it isn't a goal at all. The pose shows us everything we are experiencing in that moment if we are available to listen. I learned that rather than becoming goal-oriented, I could be process oriented. I could determine my constitution and then identify what type of practice I needed in that moment. I got curious about sensations, emotions, and what might be necessary for balance. I learned my practice shouldn’t be a measure of success, rather a coming home.
How to facilitate this homecoming? Here are some questions to ask in the process: How’s my breath ?here? Can I soften my jaw? Where am I holding physical tension? Emotional tension? What is going on in my mind as I approach this pose.
These questions have helped me in life outside of the parameters of my little mat and have opened up a world of self-inquiry. Some things I didn’t want to know, but those things were where I needed to do the work.
So I invite you. Let the practice be your teacher, your guide to awareness in the moment.
The mat and meditation cushion has shown me that the cliche is true: how you do one thing is how you do everything.
So if you enter a handstand with an easy-going exhale instead of a grunt of striving then it just might be possible to reach for the same easy exhale for when your kid or pet or loved one is bringing about irritation.
Some of the most valuable things take the longest to learn. It takes great effort to become effortless at anything. But don't push. There is no rush. Just practice and when an obstacle comes up, opt for ease and see where the ease takes you.
You might be surprised.