Holding a difficult yoga pose at length can be uncomfortable. Sweat pours down the face, the heart starts to race, and the mind wanders or obsesses. For many, maintaining the connection between mind and breath in the midst of unbearable burning pain is their least favorite part of Vinyasa Flow class.
Seated meditation, for others, can be just as grueling. For something as simple as sitting still for an extended period of time, meditation can be incredibly tough. Taming the “monkey mind,” or the constant stream of thought, can feel like taking a nuclear physics class, or climbing Mt. Everest.
A Word On Effort
When faced with these challenges, we turn to the voices of teachers, coaches, parents, friends, and even our own self-taught voice to make it through. When life gets hard or painful, we have all been taught at some point in our lives to “Push,” “Try harder,” or even “Fight through it.”
And so we push, we squeeze, we force, and we try. It is even somewhat intuitive; the harder the ordeal, the more effort we think is required.
These “Try harder” mantras, however, merely serve as short-term band aids—helpful to hold the pose, but only for a moment. The great irony of yoga is that trying too hard usually only leads to frustration and disappointment.
In baseball, a hitter will sometimes go through a slump where he cannot get a hit. The hitter starts to squeeze the bat harder, focus more intently on the ball, yet does not shake out of the slump. The mind gets locked in on shaking the slump rather than just playing the game.
The sound advice for a slumping hitter is to “Try easier,” not “Try harder.” Relax, open up, just play the game.
Trying Easier, Not Harder
This is the perfect description of what is needed for challenges we face in yoga—do it, but don’t force it; let it come and follow the breath. Let go, but keep doing. Enjoy the moment. “Try easier” is a simple yet effective mantra, allowing one to open up to experience a stronger and deeper yoga practice.
This is not the same as being “weak,” or “lazy.” There is nothing easy about this approach to yoga practice. There is strength in being what an old PE teacher would probably call “soft.” Letting go of our attachment to the outcome of our practice clears our mind and dispels our self-imposed limits.
An open mind allows us to put everything out on the mat, to be totally present in the moment, and to use our entire mind, body, and spirit to explore and uncover breakthroughs and continue to progress through the more difficult poses in yoga.
Our Best Is Yet to Come
Sometimes, “trying harder,” or “giving 110 percent” in the face of trials is not the way to handle these hardships, whether on the yoga mat or in life.
Important moments or times of adversity require us to open up and offer our best, not close down to focus on the difficulty of the task at hand. In life, we need our best for these times, and it is in letting go and just doing, but not forcing, that our best comes out.
by Michael Navratil - Michael is a lawyer who found yoga as a way to discover himself on a deeper level. Yoga is something he believes strongly in and teaches his kids about, and he shares his thoughts in case they help others on their yogic journey.
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