Today I want to talk about something that all of us, as yogis or athletes, as regular people with health and exercise goals, have to face every now and then: the idea of progress.
Progress is the tantalizing carrot being waved in front of us during our workouts, the goal that keeps us coming back to class, but more likely, that overloads us with guilt when we can’t make it in. It’s usually a number on the scale, or a challenging yoga posture to master, or a feat like accomplishing a number of pushups or running a certain distance in a certain time. Rarely do students say that their goal is to accept themselves as they are, or to be grateful for the body they have now.
This is very normal. We exercise in large part because we want change. The thing is, if we’re only in it for these goals, often our progress grinds to a halt and we miss out on the less quantifiable benefits. Why? Because we stop listening to our bodies. We might push too hard and hurt ourselves, or burn out and then lose interest. We might get so impatient for those benchmark results that we miss the sensations that tell us that it is working, bit by bit.
Right now I’m sitting up in bed, trying to breathe through severe congestion, as I have been for the past few days. Every evening this week I’ve told myself, tomorrow I’ll feel good enough to go back to yoga, but when morning comes I’m too dizzy and sick to even make it outside. Part of my desire to get back on my mat is because, well, I love yoga. But the part that’s making me anxious even now is the fact that I rely on my practice to burn calories, and I’ve gotten used to a level of strength and flexibility that comes with practicing every day. What happens when I have to take a few days off? Will I still be able to do the splits? Maybe, maybe not. But if not, is that the end of the world? Sometimes I can get so caught up in progress that it feels that way.
A huge part of progress is actually process. One of the most sustaining benefits of moving your body is the way it makes you feel, inside and out. Most of us have things about ourselves that we’d like to change. That’s okay. We don’t need to become self-acceptance gurus overnight. But neither do we need to lose the inches or achieve our fitness goals right this minute either. It’s great to keep those goals in sight, somewhere, over in the corner, but for now what matters most is not the body you wish to inhabit, but the one you are in, right now, this minute.
I hope this helps some of you be a little kinder to yourselves. Believe me, this will actually make it easier to maintain a regular practice! I’ve enjoyed blogging for YOGAthletix over the past couple of months, but now I’m moving on. Thanks for reading and stay tuned for more posts coming soon!
Halliday Reynolds is a writer and Bikram yoga teacher from Toronto. She recently spent four years in Paris, and came home to sponge off her relatives and write her first novel. You can read her work on theactivityreport.com, a site she co-founded and on social media as @hdayreynolds.