I’m big into yoga. “Big” in that I like it a lot, it’s helped me through various difficult points in my life, and in a former career, I used to teach it. Now I just write about yoga, and go to classes.
My life has definitely sped up since my days of yoga teaching. Journalism, public speaking, teaching; these are ‘busy person’ tasks. And sometimes, when I go to yoga, it’s tempting to want that time to be fast too: flowing, dynamic, challenging.
But this last week I’ve been reminded how good it is to slow down. The reminder came in a yoga class that was sooooo slow I swear I could see the hairs on my legs growing while I sat in a forward bend with my face smooshed up against my calves. It was frustrating. Then suddenly, it became fantastic. Because I remembered the following:
When I slow down, I observe more.
In yoga, this might mean I notice which hip is slightly out of alignment, or that my breath is actually faster than I’d realised. (The latter is a broader indicator you need to slow things down because fast breath = fuzzy thinking. It’s an oxygen imbalance thing.)
At work, the pay off for slowing down might equate to a sharper set of eyes. When my observation skills are firing properly, an errant typo is more likely to get noticed before an important story is sent to my editor (or posted, say, in this blog).
When I slow down, I have time to reflect.
In yoga, the temptation is to reflect on things outside of class. Actually, you’re supposed to reflect on what you’re doing at that very moment. If you take this idea off the mat to the work place; for me, reflecting might mean letting a story sit for 24 hours before I give it another edit.
In the meantime, I may look like I’m making a cup of tea or doing the washing, but really I’m contemplating part of the story and thinking about something I want to add, change or rework. In my experience, reflection time is particularly vital for strategic projects or difficult tasks. (Although I admit it’s true: sometimes when I look like I’m making a cup of tea or doing the washing, I really am doing just that.)
When I slow down, my thinking (overall) is faster.
It’s true. The more time I take to slow down, the clearer my overall thinking becomes. For me, it’s a slow, steady yoga class that gets me there. For you, it might be having a cup of tea in your backyard before work, or walking home from the office rather than sitting in traffic on the bus.
The best part is: the more you do it, the greater the impact. The more I take time to slow down, the longer the impact of the action. (Quick aside: Before you head for the couch and the remote, I’m not meaning, “The more I lie on the couch for days on end, the better my brain works.” I mean, “The more I have consistent periods of quiet reflection, in any form, the longer my batteries stay charged.” Try it. And if you want to, let me know how it goes.
What do you think? Is slowing down helpful for your mind? Or only if you want to watch grass grow?