This past Sunday was the most rewarding yoga practice that I’ve had in months. It wasn’t my typical instructor, class or studio. It was not a heated class and I was hesitant that it wouldn’t be a real “workout.” However, as normally happens with me at yoga, my expectations, or lack of, were completely blown away.
We were in warrior II alternating between reverse warrior and extended side angle before settling in extended side angle. Even though my hamstrings and hips were feeling tight, I went straight into a bind and then bird of paradise because that’s what I normally do. I thought that if I could do the more advanced move then anything less was a cop-out.
I thought nothing of that sequence, and how I ignored my body, until we were working on arm balances. The instructor demonstrated the balance pose and gave multiple variations. As I was struggling with the basic pose (no variations) the instructor said to treat this Sunday yoga class like an ice cream sundae bar. Her comparison caught my attention.
The analogy sounded like this: Sometimes you want vanilla ice cream. That’s great, vanilla is delicious! Sometimes you’re in a colorful mood so you go for rainbow sprinkles on your ice cream. Then other times you want to go for the whole shebang: the full banana split. But regardless of what type of ice cream you get, it’s still going to be good. Just as you might want basic vanilla ice cream one day, your body might want to stay in the basic yoga pose. Other times you feel the need to add a variation (sprinkles) and, once in a while, you decide it’s time to go big and challenge your pose.
Is a banana sundae always better than vanilla ice cream? No. Are you going to want sprinkles on your ice cream every time? Probably not. But that doesn’t mean one option is better or worse than the other.
Back to the arm balance….As I was fighting to hold myself up, I decided to take the instructor’s analogy to heart. I fell to the ground and re-entered the pose in its basic form. Hey, sometimes my body might not want to push its limits. It might be craving the fundamental pose. I have to learn that is OK. More than OK, actually. I didn’t have to push myself in bird of paradise. Even though I know I’m capable of more advanced variations, staying in extended side angle would have been fine. Great, even!
While I completely understand pushing through mental barriers or minor fatigue during workouts, you shouldn’t always be uncomfortable. Yes, for some workouts the goal is to get uncomfortable, but that’s not always the case. I need to remember that not every workout has to be hard or leave me dripping in sweat.
You can apply this analogy other aspects of life. For example, sometimes we eat tons of fruits and vegetables, because that’s what our body is craving. Other times we (aka me) eat straight out of the peanut butter jar because that’s what we feel like eating. Sometimes you want to add strides or sprints for the “sprinkles” on your run. Other times just feel like plain ole’ running. Not every day is the same and not one day is “better” than the other.
What matters is that you’re trying your best and listening to your body. In yoga, running, eating, work, life, sometimes you’re in a vanilla mood, other times you want the split. Just enjoy what you choose and realize there will be plenty more days of ice cream ahead.
What are some of your yoga-life realizations?