Smell the roses
Early on in my exploration as a yoga student, I became greatly impassioned for strong,
speedy, intense physical practices. I had all the fervour of someone who’d discovered
something they really, really enjoyed and acted quickly in upping my practice to 5
classes a week.
I became adept at flowing through the classes, sweating through squats and balances
and many, many chaturangas. And whilst I began to feel powerful, strong and centered
in many ways, I was completely engrossed by my physical shape. I spent my time
gazing at the other students in the class to compare capabilities, I pushed myself to do
that extra chaturanga ‘to get the most out of my practice’, I pressed myself into
advanced postures I was not ready for.
If I ever attended a class where I felt like I wasn’t knocked around enough, I left
It became more of an exercise for me, rather than a spiritual practice. I mentally altered
the practice to make it something more gross, more external. And whilst, yes, my body
became robust and flexible, what I didn’t realise was that I was causing long-standing
stress and inhibition on my joints and I was absent to the beautiful nuggets of yogic
wisdom that my teachers were sharing because I was so enwrapped by my physical
During this time I began to casually attend a YIN class here or there, a distinctly
different yoga practice than that of the physically demanding routine I had come to know
and love. Floor-based postures are held for minutes at a time to target the deeper
connective tissues of the body, and in doing so, provides a slower, more meditative
container for mindfulness meditation and contemplation. It would be remiss of me to say
I completely enjoyed my first few YIN classes. I struggled to keep still, I wriggled and
fidgeted – my mind busy with thoughts of when we were going to move from this pose to
the next. I was bored, irritated, uncomfortable. I had in a way brought a very active way
of being to a practice of stillness.
What slowly occurred, though, was I began to soften. Mentally, physically, emotionally. I
reflected on my physical practice and understood that I was bringing my token
hard-headed discipline that I was used to to the mat. I was inattentive to my actual
needs in the moment. I failed to see where I needed to slow down, even stop, to take a
rest to reconnect with my breath and listen to the cues that were coming from my body. I
had been practicing on autopilot. What YIN showed me was strong movement was just
another way for me to distract myself from being in the moment.
Slowing down was something I desperately needed. And in an outwardly chaotic world,
I think it’s something we all need. We live in a society that values upward mobility,
activity and outcomes, but this has manifested in epidemics of stress and disease. Rest
and receptivity are not held in high regard, and often perceived negatively.
And whilst movement is incredibly important for our physiology and mental health (I still
partake in a strong yoga practice 2-3 times a week, just a lil’ more leisurely), we are
needing to honour times of downward movement, receptivity and quietude just as much.
So if you’re feeling a little overwhelmed, engulfed by life’s troubles, or perhaps you
simply struggle to slow down, maybe it’s time to ditch the aesthetically pleasing
acrobatics of it all and opt for a YIN or Restorative class to bring you back to your
middle. And if yoga is something that doesn’t interest you, a phoneless walk in nature,
going to bed an hour early, hugging a loved one, writing down what you’re grateful for
that day – just stopping to smell the roses, whatever that means for you – that should do
By Renee Dyson