There was a brilliant article on Tiny Buddha today about a cyclist who, when in pain, would let anger speed her up and ruin her ride. This concept can be directly applied to yoga.
From the article, Pacing Yourself When You Want the Pain to Stop
Still panting, I said to Keila, “That was awful. I wonder why it was so hard this time?”
A wise and observant young woman, Keila softly replied, “It’s because when you start to suffer, you speed up. And then you get mad.”
I looked at her for a moment and then, despite my still thudding heart, I laughed.
She was right.
An experienced cyclist, Keila acted as my coach when I first started riding. One of the things she always had a hard time getting me to understand was how to pace myself, especially going uphill.
I had actually become fairly good at it, but today I had forgotten the lesson. Today, when I came to a very steep section of the challenging hill, I tried to speed up to make the pain stop.
But then I didn’t have enough energy for the rest of the climb and really struggled.
Out of fuel and suffering, I got angry and swore at the pain and myself.
The same is true for yoga. I discovered that if I let my breathing speed up, my stamina diminished. Even if I make it through class, I feel horrible at the end. However, if I slow my breath and move slower, I make it through class and more importantly, I actually feel good at the end.
Another important reason to slow down or keep the pace consistent, is that when it gets hard, our mind starts to tell us stories. When we start to listen to the mind, we don't listen to the body. This sets you up for injuries. Also moving fast, even if the mind is quiet, gives you little time to react to the bodies signals. Meaning by the time you realize that you shouldn't have made that move, you are already in it and hurt. If you are moving slowly into and out of poses, if something is wrong, you will get a signal before you go all the way in and you can adjust.
The article goes on to talk about other areas of life where this phenomenon surfaces. For if you are seeing it on your yoga mat, chances are that you are doing it in your life as well.
I began to wonder if this manifested itself in my life off the bike, too.
It didn’t take long to see the pattern.
- Averse to being in conflict with anyone, I often sped up during disagreements, either acquiescing to the other person or abruptly cutting them out of my life.
- Times of confusion or indecision also caused me to speed up such that I would make impulsive choices just so I wouldn’t have to suffer any longer with being unsettled.
- At the beginning of a long period of deep and heavy grief, I quickly latched onto someone I thought would help me get past the pain only to have that person bring me more heartache and sadness.
- And, during some of these times of indecision, confusion, conflict, or sadness, I used anger as a motivator to propel me into action, but again, usually in a rash, compulsive manner.
Inevitably, these “speed up maneuvers” backfired on me. I ended up regretting choices I made, cut off people I would have enjoyed keeping in my life, and lost myself in the process of getting the pain to stop.
But I also noticed that as I’ve aged and become more conscious of my speed up maneuvers, I’ve learned to pace myself more. To move more slowly and with greater awareness of my actions and their outcomes.
And I’ve learned that pacing myself doesn’t mean that it doesn’t hurt.
When I’m on my bike and climbing a hill, I still get to a point that I’m suffering no matter what I do.
But when I pace myself rather than try to outrace the pain, I have confidence that I can both tolerate the suffering and make it to the top of the hill.
So now, when I pace myself during life’s struggles, I don’t hold on to illusions that it’s not going to hurt in some way.
I have confidence in the knowledge that slowing down and moving forward with awareness will allow me to manage the suffering so that I can make it to the top of whatever emotional hill lies in front of me.
I encourage you to identify your speed up maneuvers.
What do you do when you’re suffering?
What are the ways you try to get the pain to stop that only drain your energy and cause you to struggle even more?
How can you pace yourself so that, even though moving forward may still hurt, you can make it to the top of the hill?
On our next ride, I told Keila about my insights that sprang from her quiet observation of my cycling struggles.
She laughed gently and said, “Everything that happens on the bike relates to what happens off the bike, Bobbi.”
Amen to that, Keila.
Amen to that.
Check out the full article here.