Not So Fast

Oh how we hate to slow down.

We default to speed in most every aspect of our daily lives, and yoga is no exception. As a teacher, I can feel the resistance in the room when I encourage students to move a little slower and take their time transitioning from one pose to the next. And I will be the first to admit that as a student, I can feel the resistance in my own body when my teacher invites to move at a slower pace than usual.

If you think about it though, it really does make perfect sense. The faster we can do things, the more things we can do--and in a culture that tells us we have to “do” to be enough, doing more things is the ultimate goal. We hate to slow down because speed feels like progress and slowing down feels like falling behind.

The the problem with allowing unbridled speed into the yoga practice is that when it comes to yoga, speed very rarely equates to progress. Most all of the work of the yoga practice begins with slowing down.

In Sanskrit “yoga” is usually translated as “to yoke” or “union,” and so I see yoga, at its core, as the work of reconnection. Ancient yogis began this practice as a way to facilitate connection between mind, breath, body, and spirit, in search of samadhi, the ultimate state of union, wholeness, and oneness. In order to reconnect we must identify places where we have been separated, both from our own selves and from each other. Identifying separation requires careful observation and self-exploration, and here’s the key: observation and exploration, by their nature, are relatively slow practices.

I think about it like walking through an art gallery. If you walk at your normal pace you will have a very different experience than if you pause in front of a piece and allow yourself time to take it in. When you slow your pace and approach a piece of art with curiosity, you allow yourself time to take in the subtleties, and you notice its texture, the curvature of its lines, where the colors meet and where they mix--all the parts that make the whole.

When we approach the yoga practice in that same way, slowly, with curiosity, we give ourselves the time and the space necessary to notice the subtleties of each pose, each breath, each thought, and each sensation--all the parts that make the whole of our being. We also give ourselves time and space to recognize places of disconnection or separation. Then, bit by bit, we can begin to reconnect breath, mind, body, and spirit.

So next time you find yourself moving at breakneck pace, whether on your mat or otherwise, pause. Pause, slow down, and see what you notice. You might find that what you’ve been searching for in your speed is only found in the space created by slowing down.