You’re sitting in child’s pose on your yoga mat, stifling a yawn after hauling yourself out of bed early to squeeze in a workout. Next thing you know, you find your mind getting anxious about doing each pose “right.” Are your legs at the perfect angle? What does your spine look like? You glance over to your neighboring mat, and all of a sudden, you’re comparing your yoga pants to those on the perfect size 2 yogini next to you.
You jealously glance at the ease and grace of the person on the mat on the other side, wondering why you can’t quite get your body to twist that way. You think, “I shouldn’t have eaten that second slice of pizza last night!” and “Why isn’t this working?!”
Nobody wants to feel judgmental and self-critical during yoga, but it's easy to fall into that trap. Here are my five favorite mindset shifts to help you get back to adoring yourself and your practice.
1. Stop making yourself wrong for doing it in the first place.
When you start catching yourself thinking, make a point to notice the thought going through your mind. Be the observer, and instead of thinking, “I should be present,” or “Stop thinking,” or “Stop comparing, you know better,” be curious about the thought.
2. Ask a question.
Ask yourself, “Is there some inherent value to me thinking this?” or “Will I make a change?” or “Who or what am I really aware of?” When you take a moment to see and question the thought without judgment, you can often see that it has absolutely no value to you.
3. Allow your body to be moved.
Every day is different. Your body changes. It may not be as flexible today as it was yesterday, but it could be more flexible tomorrow. What matters is you are allowing your body to be moved without the need to constantly judge it for not doing what you believe it "should." It’s time to start loving your body and allowing your body to be moved.
4. Fall in love with yourself.
When you acknowledge yourself and your body without judgment, you not only change your experience, but you also change those around you. What would happen if you started acknowledging yourself for your greatness? Start by offering your body gratitude. “I am so grateful I can make it to class and move my body.” Then add in a spoonful of acknowledgment: “I acknowledge my arms for their strength. I acknowledge my legs for their flexibility.”
5. Focus on admiration.
Yoga means union. What if your practice became a journey of uniting your being, brain, and body—instead of a journey of doing it wrong? When you change your perspective, you change your life. You also change other people’s perspectives. When you get in the habit of admiring others instead of comparing yourself to them, they perceive that gift. Focus on what you admire about your peers. For example, instead of thinking, “I wish I could do it that way!” and pouting, start offering the gift of admiration. You don’t have to verbally say it; just shift your thinking.
Play with it. Have fun.