It feels like a bit of a cop-out to keep using the weekly themes from the 40-Day program to inspire my teaching, but it also feels authentic: I’m in this, this is where my head is, this is where my heart is, this is where my truth is right now.
One of Baron's laws this week is “Relax into What Is,” and the over-arching theme is Restoration. Those words aren’t foreign on a yoga mat, but they don’t usually come up in a power practice or a cycling class. But I’ve realized that it’s how I always approach teaching and my own workouts: On the bike, it’s dropping our obsession with the numbers and just giving in to the feel of the ride; and in yoga and Pilates, it’s really coming from a strong, solid foundation and knowing that you never have to go further than that.
Meet yourself where you are, today, right now. Every time you come to your mat, sit up on the bike, lace up your shoes for a run, assess. Where are you today? Are you emotionally exhausted and just need something that feels good? Are you fired up and need to let off some steam? Is your body feeling tight and sore or powerful and ready? Finding that quick connection to your physical and mental state before jumping in will allow you to know where you need to go, how hard you need to push, and what’s going to restore and revitalize you. Let that feeling be the thing that sets your metric: If you feel good, let that be success.
To me, physical exercise in any form is a way to heal and nourish your body – so forcing something that doesn’t fit defeats the purpose of the workout. Just like I talked about setting the right intention before you move, that working out from a place of self-hatred is just fueling the cycle, you also need to understand the physical needs and limits of your body.
And there’s that word: limits. Yes, we DO have limitations. They can stretch and grow and change, but they do exist. I can’t jump off the chair I’m sitting in right now and do a split, but if I warmed up properly and coaxed myself through it for a few days, I might be able to on Friday. Or next month. Or three years from now. Limitations can change, but not in an instant.
Practicing this isn’t easy. We don’t want to find our limits – we want to blow past them or feel badly about where we aren’t able to go. It’s like someone with dyslexia who sees the negative space between the letters: All we see is place that we aren’t in, not the perfectly awesome place we already occupy.
This one is hard for me: I’m an “intellectualizer,” an analyzer, a fixer. When you give me cues in class, even weird ones, I internalize them and force every. single. one. to settle in my body. Like by doing every micro movement perfectly, by pulling in my 10th rib at exactly the right angle (horrible cue, btw), I could do the pose and therefore fix the chaos for that moment.
Ah. There’s the thing: If I could just set every little tiny piece exactly right, I’d fix everything. It doesn’t work that way – not in yoga, not in running, not in writing or in folding laundry or in dealing with the bigger, scarier demons that we let drive our daily lives.
We can’t control everything, especially not every muscle or bone in our bodies. So, instead of picking apart your triangle pose and saying in your head “if my hips were just more flexible, I’d be able to do this pose,” remind yourself that you ARE doing it – it’s doable because you’re already doing it. That’s the definition of the word. You don’t need to have more open hips. You don’t need to drop your hand lower. And while I’ll tell you to roll your top shoulder back and lengthen out the sides of your waist, relax into the motions. Know that just by being in that space, you’re doing both. You can’t do triangle pose, at all, without those elements. So, you’re doing them. You’re meeting yourself where you are.
See the pose that you’re actually in, the truth of it, the place you embody fully and wholeheartedly, not the empty space where you wish you were. Embrace it. Be grateful for it. Relax into it, and let it restore your sense of acceptance, value, and love.