As I journey through this life, I continue to learn lessons. Some lessons I learn over and over again (!), but on occasion a new insight arrives and something “clicks” that makes it more understandable. Today’s blog is to share my latest “ah ha” moment with my students, clients, and friends.
When I moved to Austin at the tail end of 2013, my intention was to slow down the pace of my life. I had left a hectic corporate work world, given up many of my belongings, and was embarking on a completely new life. During the first few weeks (maybe months) in Austin, I had a free, open schedule. It was like I was on vacation every day! I tried out different exercise classes, experimented with different coffee shops, spent time wandering around a few of the antique stores that dot Burnet Road. Soon though, I found places to start teaching yoga classes, redid my web site, and (after much procrastination and angst) drafted a business plan complete with some financial goals.
Throughout these early months I recognized that wandering aimlessly and having no routine wasn’t good for me–I often started way too many projects and everything was always left hanging, which started making me feel like I’d never complete anything and wasn’t very satisfying. Next I created a content development plan to find ways to reach you all, and between that and my teaching and training schedules, had a bit more structure.
But throughout all this what I didn’t keep to was my original intention: of slowing down. As soon as I got more structure, my days became busy again, even though I set my own schedule. Sigh. Always trying to find balance, I kept adjusting but never quite got it right. That is, until my diagnosis forced me to slow down.
Now my pain is a perfect indicator of when I again need a day to “wander aimlessly” through life. Last time I blogged I mentioned having turned up my walks–what used to be strolls evolved into “power walks” as I felt better. But the longer and more intensely I walked, the more my pain increased. Lesson learned. AGAIN.
Why am I sharing this?
Well, because I’m finally seeing that slowing down has POWER. It’s not laziness (as I was brought up to believe). I’ve seen how slowing down has the power to heal both the mind and the body, and have been seeing it especially in my private therapeutic yoga students.
After just a week of daily practice (consisting of simple movements coordinated with breath and intentional muscle relaxation), a new student of mine has stopped drinking energy drinks and has something to go to besides his pain medications when things get bad: he does his practice. As a result, his digestion is better, his sleep is better, and he’s less “bummed out” by his chronic pain situation. He’s also more aware of how he moves his body, which will help his body heal and prevent worsening of his injuries.
I also understand this mental/emotional component of feeling “bummed out” about chronic pain, and I’ve started working with my own mentor who designed a practice that I use to manage my pain. I also do my practice daily in the morning, and have also started using it as a first line of action when things hurt. It has helped me a lot.
So when one of the women in my yoga classes mentioned that she wanted to do a more challenging class of mine but was advised against it because her back was re-injured, I paid special attention to her in my Gentle class. I noticed how she moved. I noticed how fast and how much she kept trying to push herself, even in movements that were intended to be slow, gentle, and relaxing. How I want to work with her privately! Because I know that the power of slowing down and deep breathing can help her. I’ve seen it, I’ve been it.
Another of my new private yoga clients is a beginner to yoga, and is concerned about doing the postures right. He has been to a few public classes at the gym and has understood yoga to be like other exercise: no pain, no gain. No push, no stretch. This is very common, and I feel very fortunate to be able to work with him early, to help show him that the power of yoga really is in its ability to slow us down.
As I’ve been saying in my classes lately: can you use this next hour to slow down the pace of your life? To choose to slow it down? In my opinion, there’s nothing quite as powerful for health and wellness.