How do we slow down and allow our bodies to adjust to the demands of modern society? Here are a few tips for both on and off the yoga mat.
Sitting peacefully by a river, listening to the rushing water… usually, this isn’t the context in which we hear the word ‘rushing.’ Quite the opposite: we’re rushing to the bus stop, rushing to the grocery store, and rushing to get to the appointment on time. We are up against strong cultural pressures to be high achieving – to attend a full schedule of work, plus social and family obligations, with the all-too-common side effects of skipping meals, losing sleep, and ordering double espressos. At the same time, our devices connect us to a never-ending stream of news, emails, ads, ‘likes,’ texts and notifications.
How do we slow all this down and allow our bodies to adjust to the demands of modern society, creating a life of ease and peace among chaos? Here are a few tips.
Do less, but do it better
Job ads ask us to be ‘good at multitasking’ but research has shown that multitasking (which is actually just switching between tasks quickly) decreases our ability to concentrate and hampers our creativity and performance. The truth is, we’re only really good at doing one thing at a time. Eating while working, texting while walking the dog, or shooting off emails in between reps at the gym all might make us feel productive, but ultimately make us more scattered and ineffective.
When you eat, just eat. When you write, just write. Devote a set period of time for a task and only do that for that time period. Don’t feel bad saying ‘no’ to an invitation if what you really need is time for self-care and relaxation. If you’re already in a frenzied state, a class like Move and Pause can help you transition smoothly from scatter-brained to self-contained.
Notice how you get from place to place
Travelling can be a time when we most easily slip into mindlessness because we’re operating on autopilot. Just as we often don’t notice transitions between poses, we can easily devalue the time we spend travelling as just ‘getting from here to there’. Whether it’s zooming past annoyingly slow drivers, waiting impatiently for the train, or zoning out while commuting by bike, travelling can be when all our efforts toward mindfulness fall out the window.
What’s the solution?
Slow down. Leave early, take time to notice the things you see along your journey, and also notice how the reduced pace of your travelling creates reactions in the mind. One possible reaction is: “Wow, I’ve never noticed that beautiful house with the wisteria all over it. I’ve always just walked right by”. Another possible reaction is frustration or impatience with how long it’s taking you to get where you’re trying to go. If your reaction is the latter, just take note: perhaps it’s a sign that you’ve been rushing through other parts of your life as well. Ask yourself: “What’s the hurry?” Remember Lao Tzu: “Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished.”
Remember Lao Tzu: “Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished.”
On the mat
Slower yoga flows can help you internalize this hurry-free mentality; try Katy Appleton’s aptly named class, Slow Down.
Don’t we move at such a speed, us humans…? For the health and well-being of our precious life force it is essential that we take the time to slow right down. Katy will lead you to a space within that is deeply quiet, restorative to emerge renewed.
Put down the devices
Nothing makes time slip away quite so quickly as the black hole of the Internet. From Facebook, we might click on a link posted by a friend, and from that site we might find other links, which lead us to other sites, which lead us to other links, ad infinitum. Hours may go by without a moment spent living viscerally in our bodies. We may also find ourselves rushing through other, more meaningful activities because of the time we accidentally lost while scrolling on our phones.
What if, in the middle of a mad Internet frenzy, we took one conscious breath? And what if that conscious breath was the reminder to experience the physical reality surrounding us?
But what if, in the middle of a mad Internet frenzy, we took one conscious breath? And what if that conscious breath was the reminder to set aside the device, and to experience the physical reality surrounding us? The glimmer of a raindrop, the texture of a pet’s fur, or the heft of a mug of tea—these physical realities can be just as interesting as anything on the Internet, and yet we so often detach from the vividness of life around us. A momentary reconnection to physical reality can allow us to ‘come back to our senses’, and decide if we need to click on that thirtieth website after all.
Our lives demand a lot from us. Sometimes we become overwhelmed and feel insufficient, so we put in more effort and start straining and striving to achieve all the tasks that are lined up before us. This great effort, can, paradoxically, take us further away from the calm state in which we are more easily able to evaluate which actions to take and how to perform them. The solution is to live in a state of effortless mindfulness, which allows us to see the world with presence and an open heart. Meditation is a great way to prime our minds to enter this state. After all, what could be further from rushing than sitting still?
There will always be days when get caught up in something and end up rushing to be somewhere on time. The real issue is if we live in a state of perpetual rush, unable to shake the feeling that there aren’t enough hours in the day. The quality of our behaviour and the quality of our mental state are intrinsically linked, so when we focus on one task at a time, move mindfully from place to place, and put down our devices, our minds will respond with increased peacefulness and clarity. Additionally, if we address the rushing mind directly through the practice of meditation, our behaviours will become calmer and less rushed in return. As a result of these practices, we can move through the world with openhearted awareness, and leave rushing to the rivers and streams.