As a practitioner of yoga, listening to the needs of your body should be prioritized above all else. Yet more often than not, we let this simple rule fall away in exchange for personal achievement. In the quest for perfection, we gamble our safety and trade it for a false imitation of progress. In anticipation of moving upward as quickly as humanly possible, we forget that yoga is not a race. Yoga is a slow steady climb to the top, where even the highest practitioners have yet to reach the summit.
This journey, powered by mindfulness and dedication is rooted in the idea that listening to your body should determine your pace – not the person next to you. There is nowhere simultaneously more powerful and vulnerable than inside your own head.
Learning to read your body is a science in itself. In the world of Ayurveda, where elements guide the basic principles of life, people are categorized into three distinct categories; Pitta, Vata and Kapha. As someone who falls into the Pitta category, with a fiery temper and thirst for perfection, I often let ego dictate the measure of my achievements. Much to the detriment of my self-esteem, and joints for that matter, this unfortunate trait has led me often to disregard the needs of my body.
After over-scheduling myself nearly half to death on Wanderlust day one and struggling through a hard night of acclimatization, my body demanded something easier. This time, I listened. The morning of day two, instead of pushing through the pain and forcing myself through a difficult lineup of classes, I told me ego to take a hike – literally, and I did.
I took the Art of Walking, a guided hike which leads up through the aspen trees of Snowmass Village and along the Tom Blake Trail. This gave me time to check-in with my body and explore the feelings arising from immersion within this new environment. Travel, stress, emotional baggage and lack of rest can all sap your strength. These factors when combined with the ego’s need for perfection can lay false trails and misguide you on the quest for growth. Looking internally, feeling your heart, your breath, and your prana energy can help amplify the inner voice that speaks the truth. When your body cries out, listen. The greatest gift you can receive is the ability to hear what your spirit guides tell you. Whether they are signs from the outside, or messages from within, open your heart and listen.
Walking the trails that afternoon filled my personal need, but the intention here is to identify your own needs. Progress for the sake of progress should be avoided. It derails our forward momentum and impedes the growth of our practice. We forget, that in the quest for perfection there can be no advancement where there is pain, no joy where there is stress, and no reward where there is suffering. It is only by listening to our body’s needs and realizing the breadth of our own limitations that we can authentically and legitimately grow.
Nicole Gurney is a freelance writer living and working in San Diego. She focuses on healthy living, recipe development and exploring the role mindfulness plays in leading a balanced life. Sea salt and chocolate are her weaknesses, as is the promise of a good time. Eclectic and creative, she seeks new opportunities to grow her talents as a young professional, while remaining calm and level in an ever more demanding world.