To Rest or Not to Rest...
My latest submission for Ask An Aspiring Yogini is poetic and sweet. It's led me to a discussion around when to know whether to push yourself or to rest. Discerning this takes practice and guidance!
She believed she could do it but she was tired. So she rested, and you know what? The world went on and it was okay. She knew she could try again tomorrow.
Thank you, Leanne for you observations and beautiful wonderment. I'm taking a leap with your submission and responding to the idea that we don't need to push ourselves and instead find the power of rest or surrendering. I may try and challenge this just a little and bring nuance to the path for this woman you describe.
Pushing yourself is key to achieving in high intensity sports and generally young people are taught these sports to learn important lesson about life. All through my youth I played competitive sports and I can attest to the power of pushing the body to places you never thought possible. There is a special fuel one can find in their mind by doing so. This helped me in my adult life in many ways. It's also been detrimental, causing me to push too hard and too much.
Some people really could benefit from that mind fuel. It ignites a passion and desire within. While for other folks, this mind-fuel puts gasoline on flames burning them to extreme degrees.
I remember in middle school awakening that inner power and fire when running a 5:46 min mile. My best time to date. There was a clear recognition that the pain and resistance in my body was simply a facade that I could overcome with enough grit, enough drive. I will always remember that moment of awakening. Not only does the memory (smiriti) live in my conscious thoughts but also in my body. For example, it has been incredibly useful when starting my yoga business!
There are many great lessons that can come from pushing yourself -- you find out what you're capable of and often times this can surprise you. That surprise creates great endurance and trust in your own self.
That being said, some other moments of awakening for me were when I broke down completely and had a very distinct feeling I never wanted to touch a basketball again, never wanted to run again. This came from burn out of my body and mind. This came from years of putting gasoline on flames and not having healthy support systems (internal or external).
SUKHAM & STIRAM
During Level 1 Training at SSYS, we learn a lot about the balance of effort and ease. For centuries yoga has been teaching on these concepts and the practice of pushing and surrendering. There are two great sanskrit terms that help remind us of it:
Sukham -- ease, calm, like sukasana (easy seat posture)
Stiram -- effort, stability, strength in structure
Every posture will want a combination of these two qualities. Every practice will want a combination of these two as well.
Imagine it like a sound board. As you turn down the sukham, the stiram goes up, and vice versa. Now imagine there are three dial. One for the body, one for the mind and one for the breath. We hardly ever want the breath too labored (stiram), but there are times when we employ manipulated or structured breath so that stiram gets turned up.
Sometimes when one dial goes down -- say, the body dial -- it will have an effect on the other aspects. For example, in yin class the physical body experiences much more ease (sukham) but for many folks this means that it takes greater effort (stiram) in their minds. Rest can actually be very difficult and take great effort for many of us.
So I'm about to say something perhaps radical for a yoga teacher. Surrendering is not queen. Letting go is not always the answer. There are many times when holding on, creating structure and effort is greatly needed. It depends on the person and the timing within that person. This is why yoga is so intimate and better taught individually, if and when possible.
Yes, some days are better to rest, Leanne. But there is much more to unfold about the woman in your statement to know for sure.
As one example: if this woman spends most her day on a computer, being drained through visuals, spending her energy primarily in the cerebral world and/or on others, if she hardly ever moves her body out of the chair, then we may want to "push" her body in yoga. We want to find stiram within the physical self. Even if she is tired. The fatigue is mental not physical. By engaging phyically she'll actually feed her prana and gain more energy, more vitality.
That being said, we are an extremely overworked culture. And this is why in many ways surrender becomes queen in our yoga classes, because there aren't many other outlets for it. We have strained ourselves so much that we've lost connection to simply being. But, again, often that strain is focused outside the self and usually the strain is of a cerebral frequency only.
Develop Your Buddhi
Believe it or not you have a buddhi besides your glutes. Especially as we get older, one will want to start directing their attention from developing their booty to developing their buddhi.
Buddhi is the wisdom part of the mind. Someone that is a Buddha is one that resides only within the wisdom self and has "transcended" the ego.
The buddhi is that part of us that makes clear and sound judgements, that part of us that can discern. But it takes time to sharpen and connect with your buddhi and most of the time it will require a discipline and a teacher for guidance.
The buddhi will know when to rest and when to "push" much more than any other aspect of your mind, especially much more than the ego. Not to say that the ego is not important and useful when it's time to "push" the self past self-imposed limitations.
I keep putting "push" in quotations because I know it's gotten a bad rap. But maybe we can think of push as nudging or encouraging great effort :)
HOW TO START DEVELOPING YOUR BUDDHI
1. PRACTICE YOGA
I know it seems obvious but the more consistent you practice the more you will be sharpening and connecting to your buddhi.
2. START ASKING QUESTIONS INSTEAD OF FINDING ANSWERS
Be curious before, during and after the decision to push or to rest. In general, a quality of curiosity will lead you toward buddhi rather than firm answers which often leads to ego stagnation.
3. FIND A TRUSTED TEACHER
This is vital to the yogic process and for many self-exploring disciplines. You must find a guide that you can trust even more than your own ego. They will help you ask good questions and give you practices to develop your own inner knowing.
4. INCLUDE SEATED MEDITATION IN YOUR YOGA PRACTICE
One of my teachers often had this mantra: meditation is yoga. We're starting to understand this, but in the west it has been seen as separate. "Yoga is exercise or postures and mediation is a different practice." This is not true. We do those postures to secure the structure of our seat (create stiram) as well as relax within it (sukham). If you want to develop your buddhi be sure to add seated meditation at the end of your yoga practice!
To rest or not to rest can be as intimate as Hamlet's question, albeit not as dark. There is much nuance and much exploration to be had before making a stark decision.
I hope this highlights some important and maybe new concepts to ponder and support our exploration!
Travel well, dear Leanne and dear woman resting until tomorrow.
Enjoy your yoga!