How I Reinvented My Yoga Practice
I have wrestled with yoga for many years, making every excuse under the sun salutation for not going to class. The studio is too far from home. I’m too tired after work. I’m probably going to spend the whole class comparing myself to everyone else, so why bother. I was unable to approach yoga as a journey without expectations. I couldn't allow myself to just give it a try and see what happens.
Instead I'd watch from the sidelines as my friends across social media posted photos of themselves elegantly balancing with ease in Scorpion, or updating everyone on their latest progress with Dancer’s pose. I have marveled and wondered at how in the world they can find the time and dedication to twist and bend their bodies into these complicated shapes.
I always had an inkling that there might be something for me in yoga, but I was unwilling to invest myself in the practice. When it came down to the process of doing the work, I lacked that vision. I just wanted to get to the end result, and envision myself perfectly and beautifully in those poses, without all the struggle and effort in between.
So recently, I decided to lose all inhibitions, swallow my pride and declare myself a beginner yogi. After a few sporadic classes over the years I made a firm decision to commit to myself and my practice, because I let go of my ego and accepted that I am a beginner.
If your practice has been looking a little bit sketchy like mine, or your inner critic has gotten in the way of your yoga, then maybe you would also benefit from declaring yourself a beginner. This newfound philosophy has totally revolutionized my practice and without having any expectations, I am able to enjoy and learn from every single class that I attend.
Here are four ways that make it OK to declare yourself a beginner yogi:
1. You let go of all expectations.
Starting from zero means that you are happy to go with whatever your body is feeling without forcing anything. You begin every class with fantastic, exhilarating curiosity. I’m not wrestling with my own expectations of whether or not my stance is wide enough, or what the girl in front of me with the amazing yoga body is doing. All I’m focused on is the present moment, and it’s an absolutely fascinating, freeing experience.
2. You approach the practice with more curiosity.
When I adopted a beginner’s mindset, I wasn’t all caught up in trying to predict sequences, or worried about whether or not I was keeping up with everyone else. It’s almost like rediscovering the capabilities of your body for the first time, which can be a truly surreal experience, especially with a relaxed and clear outlook. You'll leave class knowing that you've learned a little bit more about flow and movement, and your attitude towards it.
3. There’s no pressure!
The expectations I used to place on myself to achieve in class (whatever that means) didn't come from my teachers, the other students, from the studio, or even from yoga itself. They came from me. Expectations only limit your practice and dedication to being present. So let go of your expectations and take some of that pressure off yourself!
4. You take each moment as it comes.
While you can attend the same studio with the same teachers, you can't always predict what's coming next in the sequence or how it's supposed to look. With a beginner's outlook, you'll appreciate the purpose and elegance of each posture even more, no matter how repetitive they may seem.
Like life, there will be some discomfort, but this is contrasted moments of pure harmony and bliss. You become more aware of the yin and yang elements of everything.