The Benefits of a Balanced Practice
Do you find that your running yourself ragged? Are you always on the move trying to be everything to everyone? Whether we like it or not – society has
programed us to be as productive as possible no matter what’s going on in the external world. When I get caught in the busyness of everyday life, instead
of paying attention to my body and slowing down, I continue to live at an unsustainable pace until I burn myself out. Perhaps it’s a byproduct of living
in the Silicon Valley, but I have mastered the art of ‘burning the candle at both ends’.
My approach to daily life has certainly carried over in to my yoga practice. I like to pick the hottest and hardest classes (sometimes taking back-to-back classes if I’m able to squeeze them in), usually a Power or Hot Pilates class. I race to the studio, throw down my mat two minutes before class starts, do one last check of my emails/text messages before I get my yoga face on. During the class I move from pose to pose on autopilot while thinking about what I have to do later in the day, the next day or even later that week. And I always, ALWAYS cheat myself out of shavasana – instead of quieting the mind and enjoying the rare moment of stillness, I reprimand myself for not accomplishing everything I meant to get done that day and think of ways to squeeze it in the following day.
After many years of living like this, my lifestyle and yoga practice took a toll on my body; I had a hard time sleeping, I felt anxious the majority of the time and I kept reinjuring my lower back. Despite these issues I kept pushing myself, living life with intensity and I accepted the fact that I was going to always live with lower back pain – it was almost as if this was the new normal. It wasn’t until my doctor ordered me to find a less strenuous exercise, specifically a restorative or therapeutic yoga class, to allow my lower back to heal. I balked at him. I have always had a strong, more rigorous yoga practice and would never be caught dead in a Yin or Restorative class, ‘those’ classes made me anxious, just sitting there in stillness didn’t appeal to me and I couldn’t understand for the life of me why anyone in their right mind would want to do that.
I reluctantly started my journey in to the softer side of yoga by attending gentle, restorative and yin classes. The first couple of weeks taking these classes were a real struggle for me; I noticed that sitting in poses for 3-25 minutes gave me A LOT of time to think and made me very anxious. I had a hard time resisting the urge to move and really struggled with trying to quiet my mind. After a few months of practicing the art of stillness, I noticed some incredible changes. My anxiety dissipated and I became liberated. I discovered that I had been shielding myself with goals, distractions and experiences; I was using my active practice as an escape from myself. Practicing the softer side of yoga enabled me to build a strong relationship with myself and gave me the self-care that I needed to allow my body and mind to heal. Additionally, it allowed me to find a new type of edge, an edge where I was able to marinate in a pose and really be a witness to the sensations I was feeling in my body.
After taking 8 months of Yin and Restorative classes I noticed a dramatic shift in my yoga practice. The result of balancing both passive and active classes has had a calming affect on my mind and has made my body healthier and stronger. My physical ailments have dissipated, my anxiety has subsided and I’ve become more flexible. As an instructor, I can’t stress enough the importance of balancing out your practice and allowing your body to recover and rest when it needs it. I encourage you to get over the mentality of needing to maximize your time in a world where there are never enough hours in the day. Instead of selecting your yoga class based on the number of calories per hour you’ll burn, select your class on how your body is feeling and pay attention to what it needs. If you’re feeling run down or dealing with an annoying injury that doesn’t seem to be getting better, see what the softer side of yoga can do for your practice - you’re body and mind will thank you for it.