Pick Up the Pace

Sometimes life throws something onto your path that makes you slow down or even stop altogether. You might welcome the pause when it’s an extended vacation or a sabbatical, but at other times, it might not be your intention to stop. Maybe you get sidetracked by an illness or a global pandemic. Whether you wanted to slow down or not, there usually comes a time when it’s necessary to pick up the pace again.

How can you pick up the pace after a pause, without lots of effort and stress?

When you move at a fast pace, you can get so much done in a short amount of time. When you move slowly, it takes longer to complete the same task. So you may feel like you never have enough time to accomplish everything, and the stress mounts. Many of us slowed down significantly during the pandemic, either because of illness or loss of work or social activities. Perhaps you’re struggling a bit to ramp back up to the pace of your life before the pandemic.

Don’t feel guilty if you’re struggling a bit with this.

During the times I’ve been away, and then returned to New York City, I’ve often wished there was some sort of “on ramp” to gradually get me back into the fast flow New York is so famous for. Well, there isn’t an on-ramp. But I have both yoga tools and aerial applications that help me manage bumpy transitions.

Let me share some yoga tools to help you ease back into your normal tempo.

When we talk about moving faster we say pick “up” the pace. It’s easy to pick up something light, but difficult to pick up something heavy. We’re not talking about physical weight here – we mean our attitude.

It’s easy to move a little faster when we enjoy what we’re doing.

In life, just as in the practice of yoga, attitude plays an important role in success. It’s hard to move faster when we feel resistant and bitter about what we’re doing, or when we try to control and overly manage all the details.

When I used to do aerial acrobatics, my specialty was the “silks” and the audience was most thrilled by the “drops.” I would climb the silks, wrap the fabric around my body, and then let go with my hands and fall toward the ground, spinning in an awe-inspiring rotation. The hammock would catch my body just before I hit the ground – like a yo-yo on a string.

Climbing up the silks was physically demanding, and therefore slow. Letting go and letting gravity drop me toward the earth was easy, and obviously much faster. It’s funny how life on the ground is the direct opposite: on the ground, it takes a lot more effort to move quickly than it does to move slowly. And our daily routines are definitely more grounded, and sometimes full of effort.

When we need to move faster, we must let go of some control and effort.

Just like it’s necessary to let go of the hammock to fall into gravity and perform a “drop,” we must let go of mental control to find an attitude of lightness and experience grace.

Yoga practice, and especially meditation, helps develop the skill of mentally “letting go,” which creates an attitude of lightness.

When we say “pick up the pace,” we metaphorically move the pace off the ground, into the air. Is it possible to elevate our lives to help us move a little faster? The sanskrit word “unnata” translates to “elevated,” and certainly Unnata Aerial Yoga classes are designed to uplift our attitude.

So, let’s infuse some elevation into our lives!

Consider this: when you pick something up off the floor, you bring the item closer to your eyes and other senses – closer to your mind. You take the time to really investigate and understand. Essentially, you focus on the item.

Letting go of the silks to perform a drop can be terrifying. It’s best not to look at the floor where you’re headed, and focus instead on the present moment. Did you wrap the silks around your body correctly? Are you fully engaged in the set up position before the drop? Are there any obstacles like dangling lights that might be too close, and you’ll need to avoid on the way down? My yoga practice helped me develop the high level of focus needed for aerial acrobatics performance.

Focus (Dharana) is the step just prior to Meditation (Dhyana). And without focus you can’t actually meditate.

So when you wish to pick up the pace, it’s best to stay focused and fully engaged in the present moment. Don’t let your mind stray into planning the next five steps before you’ve accomplished the first step. Yes, of course you have to think ahead a little bit to remind yourself where you’re headed. But there’s a difference between a quick look ahead to check in, and not paying attention to what’s at hand in this very moment.

When you are fully engaged and focused in the present moment, you become highly alert and able to move quickly.

Focused in the present moment, you can react swiftly to unplanned occurrences. It’s only when you’re not alert that trouble can surprise you and throw you into a panic. Even if the panic is only temporary, it still slows your progress down a bit.

According to the Yoga Sutras of Patañjali, we can enhance a yoga asana practice by embodying these two attitudes: letting go of control, and focus which leads to meditation.

Here’s the translation of Yoga Sutra 2.47, from Swamij.com: “The means of perfecting the posture is that of relaxing or loosening of effort, and allowing attention to merge with endlessness, or the infinite.”

So, keep up your yoga asana practice, and you’ll have all the tools you need to create your own on-ramp to a swift lifestyle of lightness and focus. Vroom! Vroom!

About the Author

Michelle Dortignac, founder of Unnata® Aerial Yoga, is an E-RYT 500 certified Yoga instructor of close to 25 years, while during a large portion of those years also being a professional aerial acrobatics performer. Her most influential Yoga teachers include Dharma Mittra, Alan Finger, Cyndi Lee and Susan Braham.

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