I’m sure you’ve heard this before: “Slow wins the race” … but we live in a world that seems to contradict that statement. A world made for speed. Even in the yoga world there seems to be a need to ‘achieve’.
Thankfully, yoga has taught me that… the less you try to win the race… the closer you are to being a winner. Mindful yoga is not about trying to ‘achieve’ any goal, but about finding who you are in the process by moving slowly, consistently and… well, mindfully.
Do you remember the famous tale of the tortoise and the hare?
The hare and the tortoise were competing in a race, and of course, the hare started running so fast that soon left the tortoise behind… so decided to take a nap since they had plenty of time. The tortoise simply continued at her slow pace, without letting any distractions interfere, consistently, just moving her feet forward.
It was one of my favourite Aesop’s fables when I was a child. It contains many layers of interpretations (like, don’t be as arrogant as the hare) and also reminds us that different people take life at different speeds and that one way is not necessarily superior to another.
So, are you like the hare or the tortoise?
As a child, I identified with the tortoise. I was a pretty calm child… and I was painfully slow doing a lot of things, or so I was told by others much faster and less patient.
For example, eating… which always caused a lot of friction with my parents who wanted me to finish my meals at a ‘reasonable’ pace, or with my friends who were waiting for me to finish my snacks to go play, etc.
I was also slow at running, or any sort of sport. In fact, I grew up thinking that I wasn’t good at anything athletic and hated all physical activity!
That’s why I loved that in the end, and against all odds, the tortoise won the race!
Of course, the tale doesn’t just apply to running or physical activity.
Some of us seem to move very quickly through the issues and obstacles we all face in our lives. Others need long periods of time to process their feelings and move into new states of awareness.
Moving at different speeds can create conflicts with others, especially those closest to us… but sometimes the conflict is not even with another person but with ourselves.
We live in a time where speed, productivity and effort are valued above anything else.
We berate ourselves for not going through stuff fast enough, not processing transitions fast enough, ‘not getting over something’ fast enough, not being in the perfect ‘mindset’ all the time, or not seeing results in the gym, or a diet, or even getting that yoga pose… fast enough.
And when you don’t see results, for whatever it is you are trying to achieve, you feel let down by your ‘tortoise’ side and may even give up.
A clear example of this mindset is quite prevalent in the gym culture where we see grown adults paying money to be shouted at by trainers and instructors: the ‘no pain, no gain’ mentality.
Maybe for you, that’s not going to bring the results you need; like when I was a child, the more my parents shouted ‘finish your meal faster’, the slower I was. And I wasn’t doing it on purpose, my body seemed to reject the food the stronger the pressure.
It simply wasn’t what I needed to hear to move faster!
Our bodies need to be encouraged kindly, not bullied into submission!
At least, that’s what I discovered doing yoga…Like magic… the ‘slower’ you go, the less pressure you put on yourself to ‘get it’… the faster the ‘results’!
So, like in the fable, I’m a big believer in letting the tortoise do its thing. Let her walk at her own pace. Step by step. Resting when needed.
I’ve seen again and again, in my students and in my own practice, how when we treat our body kindly, but firmly, with constancy but not ‘pushing’… the results are there, maybe even faster and for the longer term.
We are all different, we are all unique in our bodies, in our minds, and our experiences… so the speed at which you process something will inevitably be different to others.
It’s important to remember that…
1. we are not in a race with ourselves and
2. sometimes it’s difficult to see if we’ve made progress.
The important thing is to continue the ‘race’, to stay on course, and to be consistent.
Even if you see others ‘running’ past you. That’s not your concern. Even if in your imagination you should have ‘nailed’ that by now, don’t let that stop you.
I said at the start that I was never an athletic child, I didn’t particularly enjoy most of the sports activities I had to take part in. In group sports, I was always the one seating on the benches, the last one to be picked up in competitive games.
And I hated myself and my body for that.
I had a terrible relationship with my body. Now I understand that it wasn’t my body’s fault… I simply needed to do things differently, at a different pace, or try a different activity.
I didn’t like being pushed or made feel that I was a failure for doing things slower.
Until I tried yoga I didn’t know there was another way
I could actually become stronger and more confident in my body without the ‘no pain, no gain’ mantra.
Just by being kind and accepting myself where I was… but still committing to a practice.
Like the tortoise… just taking one step at a time. With kindness, with consistency and without putting too much pressure on the results.
Not only that, I discovered that there are many types of yoga… and some seemed to trigger those memories of being pushed, some teachers (yep, yoga teachers) also like shouting at students as a way to encourage them to ‘get it right’. Not my thing.
To me, yoga can be gentle but firm, slow but strong. Try to move slow in plank!
Who would have thought that now, at my age, I would be stronger than when I was younger… and more importantly, more accepting and loving of myself and my body.
Who cares if I carry love handles around my waist? Do you think less of me? Of course not. And if you do, well, it’s a reflection of your baggage, not mine.
Yoga has taught me many lessons and continues to do so. The yoga path is not a race to get a posture right, or to be ‘more zen’… it’ll show you who you are, where you are, and what you need.
It’s teaching me to be more accepting and more patient with both, my hare side and my tortoise side.
And the more accepting I can be of myself, the more accepting I can be of others.
Are you curious to know how yoga tools can help your self-development? It may seem like a bunch of stretches from the outside, but there are more layers to it. And I’d love to help you uncover them. You deserve it.
If you’d like to work with me… I’ll be delighted to hear from you!!
Montse has been working for the last 30 years in the world of theatre and performance as a director, mentor and performer. Her passion for sharing her knowledge and her desire to help others realise their true potential has led her onto the path of yoga teaching.
Her classes are relaxed, friendly and with elements of yin, yang and humour where everyone feels welcome, regardless of their skill. Montse’s motto is ‘be your own template’, both in life and in yoga…
Your shape is unique and so is your life so don’t follow the ‘should be like this’ crowd and don’t try to fit into anyone else’s path, find your own… on and off the mat.
If you are ready to commit to your self-development in a more holistic way and would like to chat with me about it. Book a free friendly call to discuss your needs.