Yoga offers us a chance to take practices that will help make our body and mind stronger, more stable and less rigid and allow them to come back to a more harmonious and well-balanced state of being.
If you're a beginner to yoga, you may have an advantage to those experienced in yoga practice in some ways. You come to class being open and curious to what is about to happen. The uncertainty of not knowing what you are going to be doing in your class, the unfamiliar postures and ways of breathing all demand an attention and a focus to pull it off. There is an openness and natural effort, and less expectation. These are qualities that are essential ingredients in cultivating a healthy body and mind and enabling all that yoga has to offer to unfold for us.
Without the right attitude of attention and alertness in our yoga practice, our mind and body will stay in its usual patterns. Most of us are creatures of habit -- we're slouching, breathing poorly, thinking about the same old stuff (e.g. what is for dinner or mentally shopping for whatever has captured our attention...) -- all habits that we aim to improve upon through yoga practice.
Once we become experienced at yoga breathing, posture, technique and focus we can lose that fresh edge and that natural effort. We can become comfortable, perhaps complacent, or develop additional unhelpful habits rather than less.
The freshness of the beginner practitioner is a gift and something experienced practitioners may need to remind themselves of when they take yoga practice. Those with experience can become mechanical and repetitive as they practice during class, missing the potential of each posture and each breath. Being fully present in your practice, is part of the practice. The full physical and mental harmony available by taking simple practices, can be missing for the experienced practitioner.
As beginners to yoga we often feel like we don't know what we are doing. We should see this as a gift. Familiarity in yoga postures, breathing and the mechanics of meditation techniques can be a double edged sword. Trying to maintain a 'beginners perspective' will help to benefit more fully from each practice.
Is the picture above simply another beautiful sunset, simliar to ones you have seen before? The initial impression may suggest this because of the familiarity of such images - but remind yourself to see it with fresh eyes, as if for the first time. A wonderous, unexplored moment in time with untold beauty on this amazing planet, and an unexplored day to follow. Beginners eyes can discover so much more.
Beginners and those with experience, a reminder to bring along your beginners mind to your yoga practice.
Most of our day is spent doing things we are comfortable and familiar with, the routine of daily life, perhaps along with a few challenges and changes throughout the day. But what if we routinely asked ourselves to do things that we didn’t think were possible? Things that perhaps took us outside of our comfort zone.
Your response might be ‘why on earth would I do that’? But why wouldn’t you try new things, and extend yourself into new experiences? These are the things that will show you what you are truly capable of, and it is probably more than you realise.
'Thinking' is the key word here. Our minds maintain comfortable boundaries for us, often for good reasons. But do we get complacent? Remind yourself, the way kids do so naturally, that exploration, challenge and being comfortable with feeling uncomfortable are an essential means to extending yourself and leading on to a more fulfilling life. Even when your thinking mind tells you that it is impossible.
A good way to rediscover your potential is to start with small daily practices to remind you and demonstrate to yourself that you can do more than you think you can. Yoga practice is one of the ways we can do this.
What is you started to explore a posture that at first seems impossible. But with daily practice, and approaching it with sensible steps, you might just amaze yourself and remind yourself that you can do anything you set your mind to.
Warning…Your mind will say:
“You can’t, what you are thinking? You’ll never be able to do it, it’s a waste of time.”
(notice your mind doesn’t say watching 3-hours of tv is a waste of time …)
Then your mind might say:
But your response could start to be
“I may not be able to do it, but I can start to work towards it.”
Then get on your yoga mat or to your yoga class and get started. A weekly class is a good start. Then maybe talk to your teacher about a small home practice - which is even better as it brings positive daily habits into your life and the outcomes can be greater than you ever imagined…