Sometimes life’s kaleidoscope reflects the most beautiful patterns and shapes onto our hearts. Today, my teacher on retreat, Katy, offered us Hanh Nhat Thich’s teachings to contemplate during a fiery morning practice. All week I have struggled with an internal tug of war – my mind demanding more fire – faster, harder, more challenging – and my heart willing me to respect the steadier pace Katy had set for our mixed level group.
My usual practice is pacey and challenging, even when my body is tired. My mind ever beating my tired body into submission and eventually my mind falling into line – softening as my body softens, enabling me to focus in meditation and yin and completely let go in svasana and restorative practices where I once wasn’t able to. But oh, I have been reminded of an important lesson this week, and its one I would like to share!
There is a trend in the yoga world for ever faster and more challenging practice. For those of us with busy, stressful jobs and minds that move at 100 miles an hour it feels as though only this practice will welcome us in. It’s the only one moving at our speed. Like a moving train, you need to run alongside it to be able to jump on-board.
Whilst a challenging and physically demanding practice is beneficial for many of us, it can fatigue the body – especially where there are weaknesses or old injuries to work with. This week my body, whilst still enjoying two yoga practices a day – 3-hour slow flow in the morning and a 2.5-hour yin/restorative/meditation in the evening – was given time to recover from the 4 or 5 tough practices a week that it’s used to, for the first time in over a year. Whilst the mind was willing the pace to quicken and the asana to challenge, I continued to dance with the steady beat set by our guide.
This morning was the morning. She let us run, and boy did I run! It felt so different. My mind was sharp, my body was free, my muscles were long and strong and there were no niggles. No niggles at all! I managed some seriously delicious standing backbends, king pigeon, pincha mayurasana and I felt strong in every chataranga, every up dog, every down dog. Just wow! And all I needed to do was take my foot off the gas, just enough to honour the speed limit of my body.
We picked angel cards at the beginning of our practice today. Mine read ‘strength’. Today my practice was strong in the truest sense of the word, yet sometimes we need to find the strength to overcome our attachment to habit, movement and practice that may not always be in service of our precious bodies. If you, like me, like to push yourself hard, take a moment to ask yourself why. The next time you step on your mat ask what practice your body and heart requires. It’s not always a fiery one.