Along with New Year’s resolutions often comes a month of pushing yourself harder in some shape or form. Read why yoga expert Annabel Broom proposes that we include self-kindness and ‘listening to our bodies’ within our resolutions for 2020.
We live in a society which beats the drum to the mantra of ‘no pain, no gain’. I mean, if we don’t lift the weights, we won’t build the muscle, right?
So we see individuals pushing themselves hard and not only at the gym. Ballet dancers famously undergo extreme pain and suffering to create their beautiful art. People on a diet can put themselves through uncomfortable eating regimes to get to their target weight. Some professionals work longer hours and get considerably less sleep and rest in a bid to stay one step ahead of the competition.
In one way or another, we all tend to follow that drumbeat of our society and live our lives to this rhythm of ‘no pain, no gain’.
January is a time we often set goals for the year. That generally means pushing ourselves more than we have in the past 12 months, in some new direction.
No pain, no gain… Is there another way?
Does it have to include ‘no pain, no gain’? I propose that we also include self-kindness and ‘listening to our bodies’ in our resolutions for 2020.
While there is some truth in the concept of ‘no pain, no gain’, like everything, it should be used in moderation, particularly in our yoga practices. Using it as our only guideline in yoga is a bit of a sledgehammer approach and can result in injury.
So, how could we do our yoga poses to still get that ‘gain’ without the ‘pain’? I mean, why bother if it’s not to achieve and gain? (I can hear you overachievers from here!)
We can work smarter at yoga, instead of harder, by applying self-kindness and listening to our bodies.
Instead of pushing 100%, try starting at 75% and then gradually increasing the posture with each breath whether to stretch deeper into a forward bend or align better and increase strength and balance in the tree pose.
In all cases using the breath to ease into the postures gently a bit at a time. Feeling and listening carefully to how the body is responding to the pose.
Listening to your body
If you are feeling pain or your breath is laboured, your body is signalling to you that something is wrong.
This might be addressed by realigning the body, re-engaging muscles or simply coming out of the pose altogether.
On days when we are feeling under par perhaps we’ll drop back to 50% effort.
After all, it’s kinder for us to do a gentle version of the posture rather than exhaust ourselves by pushing when the body really needs a more gentle practice.
Yoga is not about how a pose looks, but rather about how it feels
Despite our selfie culture, it is important to remember that yoga is not about how a pose looks, but rather about how it feels. What are we feeling? Where are we feeling it?
We all have different shaped bodies, with different body-leg ratios and different degrees of strength and flexibility, so it seems reasonable that our yoga poses should all look different.
Try turning your awareness within
So instead of worrying about the person on the mat next to you or aiming for that Instagrammable pose, try turning your awareness within, focusing on the sensations in your body and only pushing yourself to a point that is appropriate for how your body is feeling. This point will vary from day to day.
There is a fine line between overdoing it and not doing enough. Find that line where you challenge yourself without aggravating your body or mind.
Practice this on the mat… and in life
If you listen to your body, if you apply self-kindness, you will find those gains without the pain. Practice this on the mat.
Where else in your life could you apply this principle of self-kindness and listening to your body?
About Annabel Yoga
Annabel Yoga aims to open the way to physical well-being and peace of mind to young and old alike.