In a fitness-crazed and fast-paced world, it’s easy for yoga to get caught up in the whirlwind. Sometimes, the speed of our day rushes into our yoga practice. We’re in a go-go-go mindset, and that’s hard to get out of. We go into autopilot and let this mindset translate into our yoga practice--speeding through our vinyasas, rushing into the next pose, and not giving our bodies and minds enough rest.
It’s easy to overdo it in yoga. And too much of a good thing can be a bad thing. Here are five signs that you might be overdoing your asana practice.
1. You Hardly Notice Your Breathing
Let me tell a tale about handstand, a pose I’ve grappled with for years. I’ve always been afraid of falling out of it, but determined to master the pose. I was taking this one Rocket Yoga class, and I was trying over and over again to get up into the pose, not taking any breaks in between.
The instructor came over to assist me. He placed one hand on my back and could immediately tell I was holding my breath. I remember him saying, “Whoa, whoa, whoa. Breathe!” I was holding my breath so tightly. All of my focus was on my fear of falling and my determination to get up into handstand.
It happened because I was too focused on nailing this challenging pose. Instead, I learned to turn my focus away from the pose I wanted to conquer, and towards my breathing. Every time the mind drifts, bring it back to your breath. When your attention is on your breath, your body will naturally follow the rhythm that’s right for you. Control your breath, and it should guide you into each pose.
2. You Are Wondering How You Look
How far back am I bending in this Camel Pose? How pretty do I look in these yoga clothes? I bet I look super flexible in this pose. I bet no one could believe I’m balancing on just my hands right now. Would this be a good photo op?
Leave your ego at the door! I am a victim of this yoga sin, and have suffered several injuries as a result. When we become obsessed with how we look, we forget to listen to our bodies. We often end up pushing ourselves too far in order to get that photo op or show off in class. If you find yourself doing this, I encourage you to close your eyes and turn your drishti inward.
3. You Are Trying to Outdo Your Neighbor
For many of us, it’s almost instinctual to want to be the best and do better. In a yoga class, however, it is important to not think of your practice as a competition. Mind your own mat!
Remember that everyone creates their own shapes out of yoga asanas. Everyone will make a different, unique shape guided by the principles of the asana. Close your eyes and blind yourself. Instead of wondering how you look, or if your backbend is deeper than your neighbor’s, think about how the asana makes you feel.
4. You Scoff at Resting Poses
We often get into this mindset because we want to get the most physical gain in the least amount of time. So we end up pushing ourselves past the max. But rest is just as important as activity. Yoga is about finding balance. A compromise between high and low. A yin and a yang. Work and rest. So much good stuff happens in these resting moments, like muscle repair and clearing the mind.
5. You Are Distracted by the Physical Gains
re you thinking about how many calories you’re burning? Are you angry that you can’t do as many Chaturangas as yesterday?
We all want to look good and feel good. And yoga is a great piece of a holistic lifestyle that can help you to achieve those goals. You can and do burn calories in a yoga class. You can and will gain strength, flexibility, and balance. But that end goal or destination should not be your focal point during your actual practice.
Yoga practice is a practice. It takes patience. Live and breathe in each moment for what it is. A part of your journey. Notice and absorb what it feels like to be without attachment to the end result.
Practicing Ahimsa with Mind, Body, and Soul
Ahimsa is the practice of non-violence, non-violence to the world around you and also non-violence towards yourself. Yoga practice should be kind to your body. When you’re on your mat, listen, understand, and accept your body as it is in that moment. Observe patience while working towards challenging poses and accept your limits.
“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”
Yoga is a harmony of three beings--mind, body, and soul. You can go fast if you’re just moving through the physical postures. But you will go farther in your yoga journey and into the world if you can travel while listening to your body, challenging your mind, and nurturing your soul.
Image Credit: Odette Hughes