I went to a new yoga class this Sunday. Near the end of the class, we held the position of Downward-Facing Dog for 5 full minutes. For non-yogis, in Downward-Facing Dog you have your hands and feet on the ground, tail high in the air. Your body makes two sides of a triangle, with the floor being the third side.
The teacher gave instructions for holding this length of pose, similar instructions that I’ve heard from other yoga and meditation teachers. “Often in life, we don’t push ourselves. We would rather be a little lazy or take the easy route. Use the length of this pose to challenge yourself, to push yourself beyond your comfort zone.”
As we entered the pose, I thought to myself, “What if I’m the type of person who never takes the easy route? The person who is always pushing myself to work harder & longer, who skips lunch and drinks with friends so I can get more done?”
As my head hung down between my arms, I felt in my body the truth that no matter what the instructor said, I needed to apply the pose to my own needs. I don’t need to learn how to push myself harder. Instead I need to learn to relax, to listen to the subtle indications from my body that it’s time for a break, and to actually take that break so my body knows fully that I’m listening.
Three minutes in, I lowered to my hands and knees and rested comfortably. Instead of feeling guilty, I savored the experience of learning just what I needed to learn.