Just to recap our story so far, I want to show you what happens when you take someone who has been doing yoga for decades and put them into a program that focuses on pushing you beyond your comfort levels.
Bruno (this is his actual name, and he was kind enough to allow me to use it in this short story) had been doing yoga for decades, but was troubled by tight hamstrings and poor posture from a desk job. I was confident that with some attention to detail, a desire to push himself beyond his comfort level, and consistent practice that he would be able to see progress within 3 months; the length of the 90-Day Program for which he had signed up.
I was wrong. We didn’t see significant results in 3 months.
We saw it in just 1-2 months. After working out 3 times per week for 60 minutes, we saw dramatic improvements in flexibility and in posture. Check out some of the photos below to see for yourself. Keep in mind that even mere inches gained in flexibility has a profound effect on overall feeling in the body.
What did we do differently? Did we change the poses? No. Did we increase the length of the workout? No. Certainly, the poses were held longer than is traditionally done in most yoga classes. We also paid extremely close attention to technique (despite only being able to make adjustments via webcam), but I’m sure that lots of teachers emphasize technique. The main difference that we made was the understanding that you need to push yourself beyond your comfort levels in order to see progress.
But Dean (that’s my name), if I push myself, don’t I risk being injured?
Yup. Injury can happen when you push yourself. But another way to get injured is by not progressing. When your body gets complacent, you do not grow stronger. And if you are not getting stronger, you are getting weaker. The idea of “maintaining” is a myth. In order to get stronger, then, you must increase your limits. But how can you increase your limits if you do not test your limits? If you do not push yourself beyond your existing comfort levels, you cannot grow. This same concept applies to the rest of your life. If you are not willing to push yourself beyond your comfort levels, you will not significantly grow. Will you improve over time? Maybe, but probably not to the level that you would like to see.
You’re probably reading this blog because you’re interested in getting stronger, improving your practice, getting more flexible, or to learn something new about fitness. This is my lesson: You need to push yourself beyond your comfort levels in order to improve. You must become comfortable with being uncomfortable. Just “maintaining” is not enough. If you are not improving, you are getting weaker.
I always like to say that knowledge without application is useless, so I’ve included a workout below this paragraph that you can apply this new concept to. This is a workout that forces you to push yourself. It challenges your strength, your flexibility, your endurance, and it challenges your will power. If you cannot complete it all the first time, or you need to take a break, that’s completely fine! Just do your best. Remember to ask yourself: Am I really pushing myself right now, or am I doing what I already know I can do? Good luck. 🙂
Note: Pushing yourself beyond a certain level is very likely to end in muscle strains or injury. It is important to understand the difference between discomfort and pain. I like to use the 1-10 scale to help explain this. If you find yourself at a 6 or 7 when you are working deeper into a pose (challenging your flexibility), that is a good level of intensity. Try to maintain that level. Any sharp or shooting pain should be avoided.