In the aftermath of Hurricane Ike in Houston, I had escaped to Austin and was fortunate in that one of the yoga studios was giving free sessions to refugees. It had been a while since I had done a new studio, and I had the most marvelous experience. The instructor opened with some beautiful inspiring words, yet what I remember most was her encouragement throughout the session to push ourselves to failure. Now all yoga guides stress personal achievement over measurement against the other students; however, she inspired me in several ways.
First, she encouraged us that the workout was not only individual, but individually motivated. “This is your workout; push yourself to what you want to make of it.” Secondly, she verbalized several ways of encouraging pushing ourselves to failure . . . to actually falling out of the postures. This is not the same as to the point of pain. “If you fall out of a posture, smile, and know you have challenged yourself well.”
How beautiful! I fell out several times and never felt better. It took me a couple of days, though, to fully understand the inspiration. Training, working, or living, if you push yourself to the point of failure, you understand not only how much you can do, but also where to continue to improve. That is success.
If you do not push yourself that far, you do not expand or improve, you only go through the motions of what you already know. On the other hand, if you push yourself to the point of pain, most likely your body and/or mind are telling you that you have chosen the wrong path. Pay attention to what the mind and body tell you! As in the case of yoga, your concentration or your ego has superceded your mind’s connection to the body and its ability to be in the moment.