When most of us arrive on our yoga mats it is usually with the intention to do our best.. We want to learn something new, get closer to our goals, burn some calories, and feel like we're making improvements.
We exist in a work hard, play hard, go getting society and when we do fail, we often fail pretty spectacularly.One of the key things that I have learnt over the years that I have been practicing yoga is that trying hard doesn't always lead me to succeed. Sometime it is possible to try that little bit too hard.
When we try to force our body into a pose that we aren't ready for we might get away with it for a while but after time the outcome could be something we live to regret. Learning to make our practice slow and steady is almost always much more effective in the long run. While there does need to be a little bit of challenge and effort, it is important that we learn to recognise the tell tale signs that we are pushing too hard.One of the first clues is when we stop breathing.When we try to force ourselves into a variation of a pose that's too advanced, we may notice that our breathing momentarily seem to stops.
Sometimes just by backing taking our foot off the accelerator a little bit and taking a conscious deep breath will help us to go deeper and put less strain on our body.When we injure ourselves while practicing yoga is another big clue we're pushing too hard. Its our body's way of telling us to ease off. For some people it is only by actually being injured and in pain that they learn not to push so hard.
Our face is another good indicator of whether we're over exerting ourselves in our practice. When our facial muscles start getting involved, the brow wrinkles, the teeth clench together and our eyes pop out on stalks then these are all sure signs of overworking! These characteristics displayed in the face can crop up in other places off the mat as well of course. Sitting behind a desk at work, on the telephone of even in an intense conversation when we're maybe trying that little bit too hard to press our point home.
A common sign is when we notice ourselves furtively comparing ourselves to someone else. We need to learn not to make comparisons in yoga. Our practice isn't supposed to look like anyone else's. Yoga teaches us to become happy and content in our own body. It is only then that we make progress on our yoga path.
Many people really struggle to relax during savasana and other restorative postures. The go-getters amongst us often dismissing these vital asana as a waste of their valuable time when they should be building up a sweat by limbering, flexing, toning muscles not simply lying around 'doing nothing'. This indicator is common and not just on the yoga mat as a sign we're working too hard. It is impossible to unwind and be still when we are trying too hard in our lives as well. Meditation will remain out of reach if we are stressed out, our bodies tense and our minds wired.
For many of us trying too hard might always be a temptation but the mere fact that we show up on our yoga mats means that at least that is something we can learn about ourselves and through consistent practice we can learn to take our foot off the accelerator both on and off the mat.
Elisa Williams is a London based yoga teacher and mum with over 25 years of practice in both. She teaches private and public yoga classes, yoga holidays and retreats. Her interests include family, people , sunshine, sailing and holidays. http://www.elisawilliamsyoga.com