This past Wednesday I took a class with Debbie Rogers at Yogani Studios, in Tampa as a part of my personal yoga challenge.
I had gone for a short 2 mile run that morning. It was entirely energizing, but I could tell my left glute wasn’t quite firing up and so my back was being a bit cranky. I hoped that yoga would help to straighten (quite literally) my back out.
The power yoga class’s sequence included a back-bend and inversion heavy second part of class.
As I went into my first deep backbend, I could feel my body going “nope nope nope!” I don’t want to do this much.
And I listened.
Sometimes the hardest thing to do is to listen to your body.
We are told to “Push through it!” “No pain no gain!” “Feel the burn.” “Mind over matter.” These phrases teach us to ignore what our body is intuitively telling us in favor of achieving something athletic.
I would argue it takes real mental toughness to know when NOT to push through it. When to stop, slow down, and listen to your body.
I have done yoga for over ten years and been certified to teach for five years. I’ve learned a lot in that time. I know how to modify poses. I know that it doesn’t matter if other yogis are looking at me.
When you drop down into child’s pose, take a seemingly “less intense” modification, take legs up the wall instead of working on scorpion pose, people you don’t know may stare at you. And you have to be okay with that. You have to accept where you are and accept that you are doing what YOUR body needs.
Just because something looks impressive or seems hard, doesn’t mean that it actually is. The hardest poses and hardest moments in life can sometimes be the most simple.
|Legs up the wall pose|
While my legs were up the wall and people kicked kicked and played in scorpion on their forearms, I did feel uncomfortable. It was hard to breathe slowly and mindfully while others were jumping up and down. It was hard to have people look at you and have them make assumptions about your body. It was hard to listen and be still.
I was lucky I had a very lovely teacher who did not try to push me and approached me after class to make sure I was okay. But sometimes you may be in classes and situations in life where the teacher/peers/etc. do not understand why you are slowing down. Why you may need to walk in your half marathon or skip out on a repetition of a strength pose, etc. You are the only person who can know what your body is going through. And you need to listen and respect your body.
Your body will tell you what it needs. But you need to have MENTAL TOUGHNESS and bravery to follow-up on the actions your body craves.
If you can be brave for yourself and your body’s physical needs–just think how you will be able to be respectful for your mental needs, emotional needs, and the thoughts and feelings of others.
And if you can listen to your body in a yoga class, how can you take that listening off the mat? Can you stand up for something you believe in that you think is morally correct? Can you dare to breathe in a room full of angry people? Can you seek forgiveness when it is required? If we listen to our bodies in the yoga room, how can we listen in the world?
and such listening as his enfolds us in silence
in which at last we begin to hear
what we are meant to be.“