I am always nostalgic when I see someone struggling to breath on the mat. I remember when I would grunt and push and breath through my mouth at times just to get specific movements in, or to do that extra pushup and chest lift. People are trying to change themselves, to transform, rather than accepting what is and learning to love that!
But the truth is that this strenuous exercise is counterproductive within the yoga practice. It really should be kind of easy(most of the time), flowing, and it should feel amazing, kind of like you get to hug yourself in all those places that never get a hug. You can fill those places with your breathing. And really, the harder you are on your body, the quicker you will wear it out. Breathe into spaces deeply and sensuously to make it sweet and enjoyable.
Its simple logic really, you only have so many steps, breathes, and heartbeats in your body and this number is constantly dwindling because you are using them up. So isn’t of trying to force yourself to look like some exotic pretzel, or maybe a pterodactyl in your practice, just find that sweet spot with your breathing and bring some conscious attention to it.
So be gentle and maybe fill your stretches and postures with a little love and maybe, a little gratitude. These are the things that make you lighter and more free, not forcing your body to do grueling and exhausting exercise so you can be “healthy”. Mental state is so important, but give yourself some appreciation, some love!
After all, you are the only person in the whole universe who can possibly discern how you feel, and even then its a lot of work to uncover those deep and unseen feelings that we have about the people and the things in our lives. Just keep riding that edge into uncertainty and be gentle; trying harder does not burn more calories.
In fact, yin yoga and restorative stretches like sulpine spinal twists (on your back) and happy baby, pidgeon, child’s pose, etc actually burns more calories because you are not activating your sympathetic nervous system, therefore slowly burning fat rather than calories. The same is true of walking versus running; walking for a few hours a day will burn far more fat than a 30 minute run.
So stop working harder and work smarter, with some love and compassion for yourself so that you can learn to discern how you feel, instead of judging yourself for what you find, love it. You are the only person who can know what you are thinking and feeling so own it! So you can get to that place where you feel literally amazing!