Working Hard Is Hardly Working
In a standard yoga class, whether it’s a traditional Ashtanga Primary or your favorite hot power hour, there is a formula to how the class is structured. There is a little warm-up with breathwork and stretching, some sun salutations to get your blood moving, and then the big hard stuff like the strength-building power poses, arm balances-you know, all the stuff of Instagram model fame. Other strength training modalities often use weights and movement to build muscle, but in yoga, we just use all of our muscles to stand still while we fight gravity. It’s a unique concept, that strength is in the stillness, that you can sweat and want to cry while simply stretching your hamstrings.
If you have never tried your hand at Hatha or vinyasa yoga, let me tell you from personal experience, it is not as easy as it looks. After all the physically challenging poses have been completed, the next part of the practice is composed of alternate inversions and folds arranged in a sequence that helps your mind become calmer and more reflective. These crucial poses are my favorite, the poses that allow you to relax on the floor, folded in half with your eyes closed. I like them not only because relaxation has always been at the very top of my mood board, but during the stillness of this part of the practice, your mind begins to build resilience. All the stretching and strength building is great for your physical body, but the mentally transformative element of yoga occurs during this final part of the practice. My theory on how this works is that as you take deep breaths doing strenuous poses, you are telling your nervous system that everything is okay, even if it doesn’t seem like it. When you enter into the slower pace of the last part of most yoga classes, you prove it to your body and mind: everything really is going to be okay. The last pose in a yoga practice, savasana, is performed by laying on the ground, completely still. When I say completely still, that includes your mind, and for this reason, it’s lauded by many as the most difficult of all the yoga poses. Inner quiet is something that we assume comes naturally, but it takes practice.
We are so used to thinking the only time we are doing valuable things, meaningful work is when we are in motion, when we are sweating and struggling to make something happen. But yoga is a laboratory that reflects our lives: if we were always balancing on one foot and twisted into a pretzel, or if we are always pressed into abound warrior, our legs would give out, and we would always be hurting ourselves. Our work lives are no different.
Finding moments of stillness, whether that means committing to a daily meditation practice or making monthly appointments with us at the spa, is necessary to your resilience and happiness in both your professional and personal lives. We all need movement for the sake of our health, but we also need to rest in order to heal and to integrate our experiences.
– Colleen, Sacred Hour Massage Therapist, Certified Yoga Teacher + Head Staff Writer