Posted by: Hil | March 26, 2009

Yoga, Mindfulness and Humility

Please excuse this brief break in our typical food programming for a brief aside about yoga.  I  blogged a couple months back about my decision to venture back into yoga and some of my struggles with finding the right class.  For the last several weeks, I’ve been attending class once a week on Saturdays at a local yoga studio, and I just wanted to share some of my experiences with you.

There are a lot of things I really like about my class, including the warm atmosphere, the high level of individual attention and hands-on correction, the focus on breathwork and alignment, and the variety of different asanas.   However, when I first attended this class, I worried that I would outgrow the difficulty.  I definitely work hard in my Saturday yoga sessions, but they are nothing like the sweat-dripping-from-every pore torture sessions (Bikram and fast-paced Vinyasa/Power yoga) that I used to put myself through.  At first, I thought that I would get bored as I got stronger.  I was wrong. 

I’ve now come to realize that yoga is a way to challenge myself mentally and emotionally as well as physically.  Yoga isn’t about mastering asanas.  Yoga is about cultivating mindfulness and balance in all parts of your being.  I’ve learned that if my ego wants to get in the way of my practice, sometimes is better for me to just spend a few minutes in child’s pose or down dog centering myself, even if I have the physical strength to do something more challenging.  Humility, mindfulness and surrender have been my primary intentions during my practice, and the rewards have been greater than I ever imagined.

My physical strength, flexibility and balance have improved since I started, but the mental and emotional benefits have been even better.  Law is a very fast-paced, deadline-driven field.  While I love my work, its stressful and I often have a hard time unwinding mentally and physically at the end of the day.  After a few weeks of yoga, I started to notice an increased feeling of calm throughout my day.  I also noticed that I’m now able to switch from work-mode to relaxation-mode much more quickly and completely than I used to be able to.  Even on a twenty minute lunch break, I’ve been able to find my way to a place of stillness and relaxation.  It’s wonderful and it makes me very excited to continue growing in my practice.

This week I got a somewhat unpleasant reminder of why humility and self-awareness are so important in yoga.  I’ve been wanting to add in a couple more yoga classes to my practice each week for awhile now.  This week, I went to a couple of Power Yoga sessions at a rather famous LA studio with a friend.  I had mixed feelings.  The flow was fast and challenging, the instructor was very motivating, and I felt incredible afterwards.  On the other hand, I felt a lot less in tune with my body and my breath than I do at my Saturday classes and the whole thing seems to have much more of a workout mentality than I prefer.  And yesterday, I managed to wrench my neck pretty badly on plough of all things, which is my favorite yoga pose and (usually) one of the easiest things in the world for me.  I attribute my injury to a combination of sore, stiff upper back muscles (from lots of cobras and planks at the previous class) and to the fact that I simply didn’t listen to my body when it told me that, favorite pose or not, plough did not feel good on my neck that day.

Now I have a non-serious, but relatively painful neck strain to contend with.  The Lemonator has been taking good care of me and helping me with cooking and such and I’m already starting to feel a bit  better.  But all that I can think about right now is how little it is worth it in yoga or in life to try to force my body into something that feels wrong or unnatural because I think that I should be able to do it.  Although I’m not at all happy that I hurt myself, this experience has definitely confirmed in my mind that I’m on the right path and that there is no need to push myself harder simply because I could.  I’ve had to learn some of these same lessons with food:  to honor my quirks and the idiosyncratic rhythms of my appetite and cravings even if they don’t make sense to other people.  It’s all part of a larger quest for me to learn to listen to my body rather than letting my overactive brain get in the way.



  1. Beautiful post, Hil. I am so inspired by your words and your passion. I’m sorry you hurt your neck and I hope that it heals quickly.

  2. Sorry about your neck, I hope you feel better soon!

    I did yoga in high school and definitely found the emotional and mental benefits to be out of this world.

  3. Great post. I think yoga is quite humbling! I always feel like I need to put my ego aside when trying a new pose or whenI see people who can do things I cannot!

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