I like to use this analogy in my classes:
One day I was sitting at a coffee shop doing some work when I noticed that my chair was skidding, ever-so-slowly-- or more appropriately, being dragged-- to one side. I looked down to find my eight-pound Chihuahua-dachshund mix, leashed to my chair leg struggling with all his tiny might to get to a little morsel of food that someone had dropped juuuuuust out of his reach. Eyes bulging, tiny shoulder muscles straining, he couldn't quite get it...
This analogy serves two purposes in our yoga practice: first, it is representative of every competitive-minded CrossFit guy/gal who struggles with all their might in a yoga class to be THE BEST, all the while compromising the form and benefit of their yoga practice. Secondly, it should be noted that the chair was moving, if only just a little bit. All that effort would have paid off...after a while...had I not thrown the piece of food in the trash in lieu of cleaning up dog diarrhea later.
The way you behave in a yoga room is a pretty excellent indicator as to how you approach the rest of your life. As I have mentioned in previous posts, our addiction to instant gratification stands in opposition to the basic principles of a solid yoga practice.
Here are five ways that yoga can cure your instant gratification addiction:
Accepting The Present Version of You
We are used to getting what we want RIGHT NOW. There have actually been studies showing that people lose interest and move on from a website if it doesn't load within three seconds or so. What does that say about our limited attention spans? Likewise, if you spend 70% of your leisure time running, lifting weights and tightening up your muscles, how can you expect them to cooperate when you go to a yoga class once every three months?
Yoga serves you a cold, hard assessment of where your body is at this very moment without pulling any punches. Don't be the little dog trying to struggle for what's out of reach; accept where you are today instead of straining until something pops in the back of your thigh. Understand that maybe you can't touch your toes today or tomorrow or even next week. Be patient for once and keep practicing.
Eventually, you'll get there...wherever there may be.
Obviously, I mean this both literally and figuratively. Balance is finding the al dente for what you do, whether it's getting stronger or getting more limber or prioritizing your daily tasks with your leisure time. With our easy access to more or less everything, it's easy to let your priorities tilt in the direction of your preferences. This is abundantly clear in most yoga classes where the entirety of the class loves specific poses (nataranjasana, I'm looking at you) while choosing to cut short or avoid others entirely (dolphin pose) even if you almost definitely will find more benefit there.
Immersion in your yoga practice lays bare your weak spots, and any practitioner worth their salt understands that finding balance means embracing the hard or less pleasant movements along with the "fun" ones. Similarly, you obviously love the pound cake in the coffee shop display window, but you know the quinoa and kale salad is probably the wise choice; why not find the benefit in both? Your practice (and your body) will thank you in the long run even if it takes you six months (or years) to find the sweet spot.
Becoming Aware Of Your Surroundings
If you've been practicing yoga for any period of time you've probably encountered the guy/girl in class who appears to completely lack awareness of others in the room. I would argue that our introversion and single-minded devotion and always trying to be the best is at fault.
Whether through unbridled grunting, flailing of limbs or virtually any other inconsiderate behavior, this yogi is the equivalent of the driver who texts instead of signaling in traffic or cuts in line at the bank.
Obviously, no one should be 'that guy' but understanding that they are oblivious makes you a better yoga student. Conversely, they are at the beginning of a yoga journey-- even if you've spotted them in class for the last five months flinging sweat off their perfectly manicured fingers while unblinkingly gazing into their own eyes in the mirror.
At some point, introversion and extroversion find balance out of sheer necessity. This could definitely take place outside of the yoga studio, but being in extremely close proximity to other sweaty bodies has a way of helping you understand that we're all in this together. Eventually reaching out (literally) for the person next to and making actual human contact brings you closer.
In a world where we're all cordoned off in our own little box, yoga can actually bring you closer to the community that surrounds you. However, it takes time and effort to be a kinder more considerate person, as well as a realization that you don't need to be the "best" in every situation.
Focusing On Only. One. Thing.
Are you a chronic multi-tasker? Me too.
Regardless of how many things you think you can do at once, something as simple as standing on one leg on your yoga mat will assuredly keep you thinking about only one thing: not falling over. Your practice is an opportunity to bypass all of the other priorities that seem so important elsewhere so that you can focus on coordinating your body with your breath. Our modern need for validation and accomplishment feels an awful lot like an addiction.
The itch to be doing something is a tough one to scratch, which makes focusing on one thing next to impossible at times. Use your yoga practice to gradually ease yourself off of your accomplishment addiction. Take each pose for what it is and squeeze the juice out of each breath, one at a time.
Not Having Access To Your Damn Phone For Once
There is one underlying principle that can be inferred in numbers one through four: a daily yoga practice is an opportunity to put down your phone for an hour. As useful as they can be, our shiny little devices are the physical embodiment of our daily distractions. If you feel so inclined to think about it, 90% of the stuff that you do on your phone probably doesn't really matter all that much, and merely serves to shorten your attention span and make you less patient.
Realistically, it's actually probably pushing you farther away from the personal, spiritual and physical goals that a yoga practice espouses. So unless you're a doctor on call or something along those lines, put your phone in your locker and forget about it for an hour. Your Instagram feed isn't going to implode, and those last couple of emails from your boss(es) won't evaporate while you're working on yourself.
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