The best advice I ever received as a yogi

Anyone who knows me - my students included - knows I (cough) have a problem with working too hard.

And pushing myself too hard.

I was that kid at school - the hyper-achiever. It was a way of hiding my distress about my home life, and of feeling like maybe, just maybe, if I did really well academically, then I would be god enough. 

For what, I am not sure. But good enough. 

This translated very smoothly into a not-so-mild case of workaholism and (attempted) overachieving in my yoga practice. It's kind of sad, that I took a practice that gave me peace, and ease, and worked to hard at it, so that at several points in my twenties, I was so riddled with injuries that my practice was a trial.

I've been unwell recently. I suspect everyone was expecting me to go back to teaching too early. Judging from the number of emails I got telling me NOT to come back till I was ready, my students are totally onto my game.

It's what I usually do, then it takes me much longer to recover than it really needs to. 

Sigh.

Which brings me to the most important piece of advice I ever received as a yogi:

I first encountered this radical (hah!) concept in Heart of Yoga by TKV Desikachar (incidentally, the book had such a big influence on me, that I went to India to train at his yoga school, totally changed the way I taught and practiced yoga, and now use it as a text book in our own yoga teacher training.)

I was reading his chapter on the careful construction of an asana practice, and he said:

Now a few words on something else that is important in the way we plan our yoga practice: rest between asanas. We must of course rest whenever we become out of breath or are no longer able to control our breath. But even if our breathing remains quiet and regular, certain parts of the body may become tired or perhaps sore and we must rest them as well. Also, if we have decided to practice an asana twelve times and we feel exhausted after the sixth time, then we must stop immediately and go into stillness. There is one rule to follow regarding rest: if we need a rest, we take one.

What? So none of this 'do the practice no matter how you feel' stuff then?

The idea of resting if I need to was so foreign to me then, and it remains a huge challenge now. As a kid, I wasn't even allowed to stay home from school unless I was very very very ill. Now I was being told to rest if I was vaguely out of breath?

It was the first time I really started to get the point that Slow is More. It's something I will likely struggle with always. The habit of go-go-go is very entrenched. But this time, I didn't go back to work too soon. I waited. I rested. I healed. 

If you are like me, and you find it hard to slow down, maybe this will be useful advice for you, too. 

Rest is important. It's worth learning to chill. Even if you have to work very hard at it, like I do! 

You might enjoy the stories of the best advice some other yogis round the interwebs ever received, too!

Laura Erdman-Luntz
Kate Connell
Darla Brown

Beck Anderson