UnRule #3 - Feel Good (4:37 audio)
Un-Rule #3: Feel Good
Everything, absolutely EVERY. SINGLE. THING. we do on our mats MUST FEEL GOOD. If it doesn’t feel good, we won’t want to do it, and it’ll make us stop wanting to come to our mats. We need our yoga mats to be a place that is so inviting, so enticing, so yummy goodness wonderful that we can’t wait to get there.
Yoga Wonderland must always FEEL GOOD!
One reason for this is because when we do things that feel good, our body spills out a hormone called dopamine, which gives us a rush of happy. Let’s face it, life is hard, so we need as much chemical help we can get, and not in the form of medicinally prescribed pharmaceuticals. Dopamine is a healthy internally produced hormone that brings us happy from the inside out.
A second reason to feel good in everything on our mats (c’mon now - do we really need reasons to feel good?) is to make sure we don’t hurt ourselves. This requires dropping what we may have learned in yoga classes, particularly those that are fitness based. Teachers often say things like “feel the burn” or “breathe through it” or “the pose doesn’t start until you want to leave it.” In hindsight, I realize that all my yoga injuries happened in classes where I listened to things like this, and I never get hurt when I practice alone. At home, I believe that if it feels good, especially that kind of feel good where I don’t want to stop doing it, then, I’m doing it right.
One of the hardest lessons I learned in my home practice was that Yoga Wonderland is NOT my workout. I say this with all kinds of love in my heart for you, dear yogi. Let me say it again, so it settles in. Yoga Wonderland is NOT your workout. Yoga Wonderland is not your time to build your muscles and increase your flexibility, and challenge your endurance. If you make these your goals, you are missing the whole point, to turn INSIDE.
Trust me. I did that for far too long.
Every single time I put fitness as my focus, the Red Queen of Yoga Wonderland kicked my pretty little ego head out that tiny door with her pointy little boot, effectively exiling me from the adventures until I checked my ego at the door. Trust me on this one, squeezing a big stupid ego head out that tiny Yoga Wonderland door is not comfortable. It hurts. Usually it comes in the form of some nasty injury that forced me off my mat for longer than I was happy. There was a time in my life where I was doing ninety-minutes of Power Vinyasa Yoga in 105 degrees heat and 85% humidity every single day, sometimes twice a day, both in classes and at home. (Yes, I even built a heated studio in my house). You name a common, and even uncommon yoga injury, and I’ve had it. Yoga butt? yup. Knee ligament strain? uh huh. Hamstring pull? yeppers. Wrist pain? check. Shoulder ache? of course. The list goes on. It hurts.
I’m not saying fitness and physical well-being won’t necessarily happen. Rather, they are likely to occur naturally as a side effect. By definition, a side-effect is something that happens accidentally, unintentionally, without effort. I promise you this, cross my heart, when I quit trying and efforting in my yoga practice and traded the fitness-focus for the feel-good-focus, I found health like I never knew possible. I finally got through the tiny door. . . and WOWZER! Now, I do 20-40 minutes of whatever gentle feel goodness my happy little body wants, and I feel better than ever. Last week I moved a heavy sofa bed up and down two flights of stairs without hurting my back. This winter, I shoveled heavy snow for two hours without losing my breath or feeling sore the next day. And, I’m ten years older than I was in those power vinyasa ego days! Back then, moving a sofa bed and shoveling often resulted in injury, and ALWAYS resulted in soreness the next day.
Keep it simple for yourself. Only do what FEELS GOOD. If it feels good, do it. If it doesn’t feel good, don’t do it. ALL. THE. TIME. NO. MATTER. WHAT.