Slowing down to progress faster

Master Sree often repeats the phrase ‘slowly, slowly’ whenever we practice Asanas in class. In Pranayama, we are cued to ‘exhale slowly.’ When coming into harder poses, we are reminded to take our time. Master Paalu recommends that we hold Asanas longer for a deeper stretch as lengthening muscles takes longer than contracting them. 


True enough, I’ve observed that I’m able to hold poses longer and go to the stretches deeper if I come to them slowly and mindfully than when I crank my body quickly so I can achieve the pose just so I can tell myself, that hey, I can do this difficult Asana. This desire for an ‘instant win’ is unhealthy for my body. It’s also unhealthy for my ego. 


‘Slowly, slowly’ It’s a fitting reminder during this pandemic when almost the whole human world was forced to slow down. But yoga forces me to go deeper. I am taught to slow down not as an external imposition but as an internalised motivation. 


In today’s world, we’re often taught that progress comes from action. Success at work comes from putting in more hours; graduating at the top of your class springs from the unique ability to pull in uncountable hours to study. The message is more action and more hours means greater progress and success.


But what if progress comes from slowing down, even coming to a complete stop. What if instead of hustling towards the next milestone, we sit down, close our eyes, and focus on our breath? I think many of us are discounting the power of understanding that comes from a pause. We fail to notice that rest often gives us the opportunity to redirect our energies towards things that will truly benefit us. 


Thanks to Yoga teacher training, I now pose myself this question when I am tempted to achieve something immediately. Could I benefit more from a slower, more mindful approach?