Eight weeks after giving birth to my daughter, I took a restorative yoga class. This was a first for me, as was leaving my new baby to do something purely for myself.
The room was filled with every prop I’d ever seen and never wanted to use. What was to be my grand re-entry to the fitness world (my nether regions having sustained the miracle of life) was quickly becoming less than I’d hoped.
I’m typically drawn to fast-paced, high-energy classes. Despite being way outside my comfort zone, I loved the props. They supported my every move, and helped reinvigorate my sense of self at a time when I really needed to feel like more than a sleep-deprived food machine. I bought some yoga balls soon after, and three years later, I’m still using them.
Merging Mind And Body
I knew one of the theories behind yoga was to form a deeper connection between the mind and body, but up until that moment, I’d always approached it as a fitness-only endeavor. Using the props helped me push beyond my comfort zone and started opening the door to richer, more transformative experiences in my practice.
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Taking even a baby step outside of the box can set off a chain reaction that will put you on a path to positive change. Getting in touch with your boundaries, both physically and mentally, can help you continue to expand the value and meaning you find in both your yoga practice and your personal life.
Stretching a little deeper or holding a pose a little longer are great ways to begin exploring your physical boundaries, but it’s important to listen to Salt-N-Pepa and your body. You gotta make sure you’re pushing it real good instead of real bad.
Ego is a well-known enemy of safety. Quiet the voices encouraging you to be competitive with the girl on your right, the voices that compare you to the guy on your left, and the voices that remember when you used to be able to touch your toes without a yoga block. Those voices aren’t listening to your body in the moment.
Ego is a well-known enemy of safety.
I like to think that my mind and body are dating each other while I’m safely exploring my boundaries. They’re getting to know one another a little bit better every time I step onto my mat. I want to make sure they’re talking and having a good time, and I definitely don’t want to make my body uncomfortable. I don’t forget to have fun experimenting and exploring, but I focus on doing what feels right and try not to judge myself too harshly. Maybe the next time you’re pushing yourself, this mind-body relationship metaphor can help ensure you’re pushing it in all the right ways.
Try, Try Again
So, how do you push past the comfort zones of your current practice without risking injury? As a mother, I am forever saying, “how do you know you don’t like it if you haven’t tried it?” It’s as true for leafy green vegetables as it is pretty much all aspects of life, including yoga. Here’s a list of my faves:
- Try a new type of yoga. There are so. many. types. Try a new one. Or try them all. Try it warm. Or try it hot — getting extra sweaty is a guaranteed way to step outside your norm.
- Try a new location. There’s a reason travel is so appealing. Seeing new places and experiencing new surroundings can open all kinds of doors. Why not try practicing in a new studio, alone in your home, or in the middle of the park? See where a new place takes you.
- Try a new time of day. I don’t know about you, but I’m a wildly different human at 6 a.m. than I am at 5 p.m. Experiment with the ways the time of day impacts your body and mindset.
- Try props. Taking a trip to prop town can be eye opening. They can help you focus on form and really help you gain a better understanding of what’s comfortable and safe for you.
- Try it with your kid (if you have one). Nothing really expands your boundaries like holding hands with other parents and singing songs you no longer remember the words to. Bonus: You could introduce your child to something new that she loves.
- Trying and discovering what you like and what deepens your connection with yourself is what it’s all about. As long as you’re listening to your body and doing what’s safe for you, there’s no wrong way to mix it up.
Whether it’s yoga or your life, without getting comfortable taking the occasional step outside your comfort zone, you’ll stagnate. So, pursue change. Dip your toe in some uncharted waters. Get a little scared. There will always be so much more for you to discover.