One of the biggest values in yoga is the concept of non-judgment: taking in everything that is happening during your yoga practice, be it physically, mentally, or emotionally, with a certain distance to it. This is not to say you become apathetic to your feelings, but you take it in without letting them consume you. This includes recognizing when you need to take a break during your practice, or when you need to modify, even if you could do the fullest expression of the pose just the day before.
I'll be the first to admit that I'm not the biggest adherent to non-judgment. It really doesn't matter what I tell myself before going into class; inevitably, I'm going for the hardest variation of the pose, which I'm sure I could get if I just keep on trying.
I wanted to run my 13.1 miles for the first time in 2014 on Marathon Monday. I went out with the best of intentions, but found myself looping back and staggering onto my front porch with only 7 miles under my belt. My pace was slow but my heartbeat was racing. I admitted defeated and collapsed inside.
I have been holding out for a potential under-2-hour half-marathon for the Boston Run to Remember. It seems reasonable enough: if my last half-marathon was somewhere between 2:07 and 2:11, then I'd just have to shave 30 - 45 seconds off of each mile. That's barely half a mile an hour faster. And, given that I was knocking 6.55-mile runs in 55 minutes or less, I was feeling confident that I could soar past that goal.
I ran 8.3 miles today, at one of my worst paces in a long while. I found myself downright jogging at times. I would attempt to speed up, assuming I was back on track, only to hear the running app on my phone tell me otherwise. I trudged through the run and made my way back home. I trudged up the stairs, downright fell into my post-run stretching, and dealt with feeling like all of the energy had been sucked right out of me (as well as the understanding that, if I ran like that at the half-marathon, I'd easily be in the last wave of runners to finish).
This is where non-judgment becomes crucial: I could get frustrated and decide that my next run is going to be faster. I could potentially injure myself as I essentially do sprint intervals in order to get my running tracker to get me a split-pace of 8 minutes per mile. Or I could recognize that, right now, this is just where my body is at. Maybe it'll improve in a few weeks. Maybe it won't. Maybe being more conscientious of my diet will help (let's face it: between my family reunion and Easter, I haven't been eating so well). Maybe it won't. But it's not worth comparing what I could do to what I am now doing and berating myself, wondering how I could ever have an off day.
I've heard fitness as something akin to Chinese finger traps: you actually get more accomplished if you don't immediately strain yourself to get what you want. And, as I say in tai chi: there are no points for injury. Take each run -- take each day -- for exactly what it is, and not waste time comparing it to what it could be.