After a recent surgery, instead of gliding right back into the pace of my life, I lost all forward momentum. Emails piled up, requests for assistance went unanswered, and social interactions held little appeal. Even my creative energy felt subterranean, as though I had to dig much deeper for the creative spark that typically ignites in every class. At first, this was alarming. Yet the slow, circuitous process of rehab reminded me of how powerful it can be to lose one's momentum. It gave me the chance to look inward, ask some difficult questions, and listen to myself on a deeper level.
Momentum is the building up of forward movement that takes you from one well-defined place to the next. You might use momentum in transitions, for instance, when you're caught between old ways of being and new ones, or to get from pose to pose. And by allowing yourself to succumb to momentum, you might focus on "getting somewhere" rather than the inner experience of your journey. Take the transition from Downward Dog into Lunge; people tend to throw their foot up to their hands, foregoing correct form in order to nail the final look of the pose. Yet doing this often means ignoring weakness, tightness, or individual differences in anatomy.
Momentum tends to blind you from the rich present moment of your inner experience. And becoming aware of this requires intentionally slowing your momentum. On the mat, move unhurriedly. Feel—and resist—the impulse to swing your leg wildly in the air from Downward Dog into Lunge. Note where the foot naturally lands and even use your hand to draw it the rest of the way with compassion.
Off the mat, observe your career path and note where you're powering forward, amassing accolades and monetary successes without the inner reflection with which to balance them. Note your forward momentum with curiosity, and consider what might happen if you let your body and mind evolve more organically.
When you press "fast-forward," you miss the in-between spaces. You get somewhere, but your new location may not align with the organic and serpentine path of the soul. Yet you have a choice: You can slow down. Observe momentum as a practice of self-inquiry, and discover what lies underneath. Be open to the inner magic that can come from bringing your outer life to a standstill.
Bo Forbes is a clinical psychologist, yoga teacher, and integrative yoga therapist. Learn more at boforbes.com.