Taking it easy when you usually don’t is its own kind of challenge. I am practicing Ashtanga yoga these days. Two days of led primary series and four days of Mysore at 6:00 am. But I worked for nine hours on my feet yesterday and today I was tired… and stiff… and sore. So I took it easy. As easy as you can take it in the Ashtanga primary series.
I felt guilty? Not guilty, but I had to rationalize this decision to myself. I had to continually remind myself that it is my practice and I can (and should) practice in a way that feels good.
Figuring out how much effort is appropriate is a theme in my life. I know that there are some people who do not have this problem, but all so-called “type A” yogis recognize this in themselves. Working hard is a virtue, but working too hard is dangerous. Vancouver’s own master teacher Bernie Clark characterizes it the best when he talks about how you can optimize health and you can optimize performance, but you have to choose.
And you have to examine your goals very closely.
I have found that the Ashtanga practice taps in to my competitiveness and drive to progress. I want to be able to reach the full expression of every pose because I’m goal oriented. But that’s not why I do it. I do it because it opens my heart and allows me to be more compassionate and loving.
I am committed to optimizing health, not performance. But taking it easy can be hard work too, sometimes.