Or, A Little Yoga Goes a Long Way
“The secret of happiness, you see, is not found in seeking more, but in developing the capacity to enjoy less.” ~ Socrates
“Simplicity, clarity, singleness: these are the attributes that give our lives power and vividness and joy.”— Richard Halloway
As if we aren't under enough stress during the rest of the year, during the holiday season the stress level ratchets up even higher. With the holidays fast approaching, it can feel as if we've jumped on a giant treadmill that keeps spinning faster and faster. Drivers seem more rude than usual, honking needlessly and slipping into that parking spot for which you had been patiently waiting for what seemed like half an hour, people appear more rushed and unhappy, and friends develop haunted looks on their faces. Oh, the joy of the season.
I love the expression "less is more," because it captures exactly my sense that in our everyday lives, we are constantly striving for more - more success, more money, more time with friends and family, more exciting experiences. This striving for more often plays out on the yoga mat, as we try to "keep up" with the other students, and perhaps move into a variation of a pose that our bodies might not be ready for - that may result in pain or injury.
"Less is more" offers an alternate way of being. It suggests that if we slow down, draw our senses inward, and really focus on feeling what is happening here and now, we will gain more - more insight, more freedom from pain, more calmness, a deeper sense of self and a centredness to hold us steady through the madcap swings of daily life.
But oh, how hard this is. We are literally hardwiring each choice we make into our brains, and the more we rush around, the more difficult it is to slow down. Slowing down means we must practise the opposite of what we're used to, and that can be challenging. As uncomfortable as our choices might make us, it can be hard to practise the opposite. Practising the opposite might mean slowing down and taking five deep breaths, or taking 10 minutes to practise relaxation when you're really busy, or breathing slowly and mindfully when the driver slips into your spot instead of erupting into a stream of expletives.
This challenge reminds me of a story. There was once a monkey and a hunter who wanted to trap it. The hunter slipped a banana into a jar that had a mouth wide enough for the monkey to slip its hand in and grab the banana, but not wide enough for the monkey to take its clenched fist holding the banana out of the jar. Of course, the hunter easily caught the monkey, which refused to let go of the banana. Even though our choices are hurting us, we may feel unable to change them. Practising "less is more" becomes a conscious choice, one that slowly begins to change the way we operate in the world, allowing us to think more clearly, set goals that are important to us, and move toward them with clarity and purpose.
The same principle applies on the yoga mat. It's not necessary, and is often counterproductive, to push more to gain more freedom of movement. Establishing a sense of ease and moving from there, maintaining the sense of ease with a calm steady breath, will take you much further, faster. By building strength and flexibility on top of more ease, you'll have less pain and move with more freedom.
In this busy holiday season, I’d like to invite to you take some time to pause, reflect and take a few deep breaths. Let them out slowly. Repeat whenever you feel tension build up in your body, or your mind start spinning with never-ending thoughts.
May you have a joyous and relaxing holiday season.
Donna offers a holistic perspective on the relationship and healing of physical and emotional pain.