“Stop beating yourself up. You are a work in progress; which means you get there a little at a time, not all at once.” ~Unknown
I’ve been practicing yoga, on and off, for fifteen years.
It’s helped me through and out the other side of infertility, kept me company on the long and winding road of adoption, and helped walk me out of the shadows of depression.
It’s a big part of my life, part of who I am—a faithful friend, the kind that welcomes you back with open arms even after you’ve been inattentive.
In fact, I’d say yoga always gives me what I call an “Alaskan welcome”—the kind my dearly departed dog used to give me whenever I walked into the house, as though I’d been all the way to Alaska instead of around the corner to the shops.
Yoga is always willing to give, but it’s a slow-burning love, and while it has rewarded me richly, I’ve had to wait for its gifts.
I have just completed yoga teacher training, at forty-six, proving the truth that you are never too old to teach (or learn).
While I’m pleased with my pace of learning, ironically, despite my age and experience, there is still so much yoga has to teach me.
And that’s okay, because I am realizing more and more that some of the best things, in yoga and in life, come to us slowly.
Here’s why I think slow is the way to go and why staying power is the most powerful kind.
1. Slow teaches us patience.
And patience is its own gift, especially during times when things are out of our control and we have no choice but to wait it out. When we bring patience to gently moving toward a goal, we have it in reserve for when roadblocks get in the way (as they inevitably will).
2. Slow hones acceptance and gratitude.
When we rush headlong into what we want to achieve, we can get easily frustrated with any hurdle or slight delay. (And frustration is unlikely to get us to our goal more quickly.)
We also miss the opportunity to accept and be grateful for the small steps we take, those incremental achievements, and for where we are right now—for the good and the bad of everyday life.
3. Slow allows for small mistakes.
Rush at something and we run the risk of messing up big-time. Take it slow and we get the chance to experiment with small mistakes, helping us to grow so we can hopefully avoid bigger mistakes in the future. We have to earn our lessons, and we don’t learn until we allow things to sink in.
4. Slow makes room for other stuff.
When we want something fast we can become obsessed with that thing, as though the goal has taken on a life of its own.
While it’s great to prioritize what we really want, it doesn’t make sense to create imbalance in our lives with one overwhelming obsession. Who knows what (and who) you might miss out on if you do.
5. Slow builds resilience.
The lyrics “It’s better to die on your feet than live on your knees” might ring true, but I’m betting you’d still like to be around for a long life.
Slow is about building legacy, and along the way, resilience. That can only be won through endurance.
Fast is great for igniting passion and showing courage, but who do you think is braver and more passionate—the person who sprints out of the starting block or the one who keeps going over the long distance?
6. Slow is seasonal.
Taking things slowly recognizes that sometime we need to sit and deliberate (by a fire or by the beach). We need to wait in faith for the universe rather than selfishly expecting our own desires to take precedence.
We need to look to nature to realize that the seasons cycle at their own pace, and we should always be willing to take things slower (and faster) as required.
Slow doesn’t have to be timid, or lazy, or less-than-smart. Slow isn’t a marker for fear and procrastination, nor apathy and indecision.
There’s a yoga asana (posture) that many people find difficult at first. The Sanskrit name is Supta Vijrasana, also known as Reclining Hero pose.
Unlike the standing Warrior postures, which are strong and forceful, the Hero pose calls for quiet strength as you kneel down and then surrender backward.
When I first got seriously back into yoga two years ago, after a sporadic year of practice prior, my knees would groan and my ankle joints scream when I tried to just kneel down and sit my bottom back between my heels.
I certainly couldn’t recline backward onto my back, while keeping my knees bent and touching each other and my feet close by my hips. But now, having taken it slowly, I can feel a little like a yoga hero.
I can realize the benefits of slow that have snuck up on me in their own sweet time. And I am most grateful.
Slow isn’t dull and boring, but contemplative and considered. Slow is the yin in a very yang world.
Slow is the strength of surrender, and surrender can be the most powerful kind of victory.
Large tortoise image via Shutterstock