Sometimes it's not until I'm melting into the floor in Savasana at the end of a challenging yoga session that I realize just how hard I've been working. It's not in my nature to give less than 100 percent to any given task—and my yoga practice is no exception. But there are certainly times when slowing down, backing off, and doing less is the only way I've been able to understand both the technical aspects of poses, but also the philosophical parts of the practice.
Here are five good reasons to slow down, back off, and do less in your yoga practice.
1. There's no prize for mastering challenging poses, just the potential for an inflated ego and yet another, more challenging pose to conquer. Yoga isn't about pushing your body to its limits. Being able to twist yourself into advanced postures doesn't mean you've gained a better understanding of what yoga's all about, and it doesn't mean you're any closer to enlightenment than anyone else. So why rush? Take your time.
2. Understand the pose. The idea that NOT working as hard as possible could be a good thing was a totally foreign concept to me when it was first introduced to me in a yoga class. In fact, it took me a couple of years of yoga practice to actually see the benefit in going to my edge, and backing off a little. But I know now that it's at that point where I can pay attention, breathe deeper, make changes and shifts in my form, and really learn the technique of the pose.
3. Go deeper. It's true that backing off of a pose does let your muscles relax, which can often help you to stretch further. But going deeper doesn't always mean stretching further. Backing off your edge in a pose also gives you a clearer picture into what is going on in the parts of your body that might not be as obviously impacted by the pose. It's that awareness that will take you deeper in the pose and in the practice.
4. Protect yourself from injuries. Yoga injuries happen. Sometimes it even takes an injury to help us to realize that just because you can push yourself to get into a pose it doesn't mean that you should. It might not be possible to prevent all injuries, but you'll be a lot less likely to hurt yourself if you go slow, move with awareness, and listen to your intuition about what's right for you.
5. Learn to love yourself. Giving yourself permission to do a little less on the mat often translates into an opportunity to do a little less in life. For me, that means I can be a little less hard on myself in life. Your yoga teacher doesn't expect you to have the energy or skill to perform perfect poses all of the time (or even most of the time) so why should I expect myself to do everything well when I leave the studio? I'm going to fall short. Yoga teaches me that it's OK, and I can (and should) love myself anyway.