The Good Motivation and The Bad

Since the new year, I made a promise to myself to really try to get on my mat for a morning practice as much as possible. The minimum being 4 days a week of a full practice.  So given that I essentially had a month off in December I started slow, starting with only half Primary Series and then building up to my stronger full version. It all felt really good and my intention was to stay on Primary throughout January because I wanted to take it steady, and it felt like the right thing by Ashtanga terms. After a long break from the practice, as with anything, you are told to start off slow and for a while. 

This all lasted until I saw a friend on her mat, who last year was at the same ‘level’ as me, now only doing Intermediate Series. (To give context, I usually practice full Primary and then near to half of Intermediate as this is as far as I’ve been given to go by my teacher.) During yoga practice your mind and emotions wonder around but you become very aware of this and how it darts around, forcing it to slow down eventually. My instant feeling was a bit of jealousy and feelings of regret that I hadn’t been as dedicated, but soon enough it turned around to being really happy for her and proud, as weird as that might sound. I then felt an overwhelming urge to push into Intermediate, a kind of determination to get back on track and challenge myself again. 

To also be entirely honest though, a feeling of competitiveness came over me too, not with my friend however, but with myself. Personally, I’ve never been competitive externally with others and only with myself - not sure which is better or worse though! I knew inside that getting into some of the postures in Intermediate would feel great but others might tip me over the edge and I could hurt myself. I also knew that I was being a bit silly, that just because I saw someone do something, I shouldn’t need to also do it right that second. 

I did it anyway. I said to myself I’ll go up to a certain point and honestly assess how I’m feeling and thinking before moving ahead. I ended up completing all of my Intermediate practice without any pain or injury.

This all made me consider what motivation is and the different types. How can you differentiate what is good and what is bad? Particularly because they can evolve into one another pretty quickly. The trigger for me to push was bad (I wanted to do what she was doing); that evolved into good (I felt happy for her and she became an inspiration); then bad again (I felt competitive and wanted to get back to where I was before quicker than I intended). This all said, I feel that the outcome was a good one! I’ve gone back to my pre-time off practice and feel stronger and happier for it. 

Maybe dipping your toe in the bad, being honest with yourself and knowing when to back off is the way to go. The honesty part is tough for everyone because we’ve grown up in a world of superficial comparison and immeasurable measurements. We can think we want something or we do things with a singular (often noble) intention but quite often, if you dig a little deeper, this isn’t the case. 

I often need to ask myself three questions because it sets me back to me;

  • Why am I doing it? 
  • What are the potential results of that?
  • How do I feel? 

These aren’t always easy to answer but they are leading questions, which encourage further self-exploration and can result in positive outcomes. When I haven’t truly answered these questions, the outcome can often feel underwhelming and unfulfilling. It’s like eating cake when you really didn’t truly want it. So, to avoid the avoidable, try asking the questions before going ahead.