Doing Less to Do More

A bit of wisdom for you on this gloomy wintry evening:

It’s true.  And to be honest, I’m probably saying that more for my own sake than yours.  Not that I’m selfish, just that I have a really hard time with certain things: 1) starting something and not finishing; 2) not doing something to a point that could be considered overboard or, in some cases, extreme.  So what’s really going on here is that I’m trying to give myself permission to feel that it’s fine that I started, but didn’t feel like finishing, my 60-minute Yoga for Strength podcast from Yoga Download.

I’m not sure what went wrong with yoga tonight.  I didn’t go running this morning because I knew the weather was supposed to be crummy (and I was right) and because I’d already run Saturday, Sunday, and Monday so today seemed like as good a rest day as any.  As a result, I figured I’d do some yoga when I got home from work, and I even started to really relish the idea as the day went by.  I’m not in the best mood today even though I don’t have any particular reason not to be, and by the time I got home I just felt super crabby and super bad about myself.  I guess ye olde negative body image thoughts are creeping up on me, what can I say (except that I also blame the weather, and commuting on the subway, which just doesn’t leave anyone in a good mood)?  At any rate, at this point I was still feeling like a good yoga practice would be the cure for what ailed me.  So I geared up, rolled out my mat, and got started.  Not thirty seconds in, my nose started dripping like a faucet.  I paused the practice a couple times to blow it, but it just would not stop.  This kind of pushed me to sneaky-hate-spiral-levels of anger about the water fixture that had somehow taken over my face.  And really, I just wasn’t able to get into the practice.  I really did try.  But it wasn’t happening.

I pushed through about 25 minutes before throwing in the towel, and then I immediately felt bad about myself.  And that brings us to now, where I admit that I go after to things with more of a focus on quantity than quality.  And ultimately, that’s not the point.

On the positive end of things, this running plan I’ve started following has helped me to realize that you don’t have to go big or go home.  Not every run has to be eight miles long!  Instead, it can be three miles, and it can help you move forward in a way that’s healthy so that eventually you are more fit and not totally burned out (um, could my failure to grasp this before today be part of the reason why my running can be so severely inconsistent?).  Similarly, you don’t have to do 60 or more minutes of yoga every time you hit the mat.  10 minutes is fine.  No yoga is fine, too.

As I am more than capable of demonstrating, it’s really easy to get caught up in extremism, thinking that the more you do, whether it’s in general or just of one thing in particular, the better you’ll be.  But maybe it’s time to take a step back and experiment with the other side of things.  Try to do a little bit less, and see where that gets me.  Choose 30 minutes of yoga when I feel like doing it so that, if anything, I end up wanting more and excited about the next practice rather than ragged, tired, and cranky.

What do you think, dear readers?  Do you feel you accomplish more when you let yourself do less?



  1. I don’t know, but I just have to say: Sneaky Hate Spirals! Oh they are so very, very true. I am totally the person who yells “STOP PUSHING ON ME!” at the wind.

  2. I think that “doing less to do more” might be particularly apt with yoga, where you always have to “start where you are.” (Although how other sports differ I can’t imagine …)

    If you feel like your body “just said no” to what you were doing, I’d say being able to hear that trumps sticking out a class that wasn’t meeting your needs at the time. And my personal bias is that any time you manage to disregard old programming, you’re making progress.

    So, all things considered, congratulations! You chose awareness over half a yoga class.

  3. I have a hard time trying to figure out if I want to quit doing an exercise because I am being lazy, giving in to my bad mood, or whatever. Or if I am giving in because my body is truly tired and I need a break.

    I think forgiving yourself for not doing, or doing less, an activity that you planned is fine. Sometimes your body does just need a rest.

  4. certainly! it’s all about having the wisdom to know when to say “yes” and when to say “no” according to our boundaries. oh, and also knowing when to shout, “ENOUGH IS ENOUGH EVIL THOUGHT SPIRALS…I AM BEAUTIFUL JUST THE WAY I AM!!!”

  5. When I end up in those sneaky hate spiral kinds of moods, I try to take a moment and figure out what I can do that will really make me feel better. Sometimes it’s taking my dog for a walk, sometimes it’s a really hot shower, or a long swim, or washing those dishes that have been sitting in the sink and glaring at me for a couple of days, or paying those bills that I’ve been trying to ignore. Something simple that I can easily accomplish and that will clear a little mental space and make me feel a bit better about myself.

    And sometimes I watch an episode of ‘Arrested Development.’

  6. I’ve done this before, typically with running but a few times with yoga too. I always feel worthless after – why did I give up, etc etc. Usually when I do it with yoga it’s because I’m too busy focusing on various things around the house that need to get done.

    Setting a low “minimum” has helped me – I feel accomplished as long as I hit it and if I feel good enough to workout longer – I feel even better.

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