Each week, as I walk into my favorite yoga class, I enter fresh and naïve. All traces of the guise of “teacher,” the label I usually carry around, are scrubbed away as though the entryway itself was formed of bristles, rubbing me to reveal the raw and vulnerable skin beneath. I walk into the familiar room yet realize that every practice is different. I let my expectations go as I unfurl my mat across the hot wooden planks.
I try to welcome my child’s mind as I settle into child’s pose at the beginning of the practice, replacing my assumptions and fears with openness and curiosity. Sometimes, I am less than successful and my ego slips into the class with me, tucked away in a safe corner. Safe, that is until I press or twist into a familiar pose and I feel the soft hands of the teacher moving my body deeper into the pose or correcting an imbalance. At first, I want to protest, to insist that I was right. But, then, I remember that yoga is practice and requires an open mind and a willing spirit. I release into her knowing hands, and I feel my mind soften, followed by the body. I try to silence my ego and listen to lessons of the mat.
There is freedom that comes from being willing to be an embryonic student, to not be expected to hold the answers. There is also fear, however, as you expose your unguarded self in a room full of near strangers. In order to learn yoga, as with anything in life, you must be receptive to the lessons and willing to listen.
The lessons of the mat are best learned with a beginner’s mind. Leave your ego at the door along with your shoes, and be open to the experience. Be brave enough to not know and curious enough to learn. Let the regular rebirth of your yoga practice keep you soft and supple rather than allowing yourself to harden to the world. Walk in the door as a nascent yoga student, and leave renewed and restored.