Being perfectly still in mind and body is harder than one might think. More than the physical challenge of holding a pose (whether it’s Lotus or a handstand), what many of us continue to struggle with is the task of calming the mind and focusing on the self and the present.
We all tend to get hung up on people and things that exist outside of us. We become too immersed in so many other things that we forget to pay attention and nurture our sense of self. When this happens, use these three tips to help you re-center and refocus your yoga practice.
1. Examine your goals and intentions.
When doing a yoga pose for the first time, many immediately focus on the alignment or doing it exactly as how the teacher does it. We forget that the requisite for performing a pose properly is to find your center, because only then can you balance and get into position with the least amount of struggle.
This is something only you can do for yourself. Your teacher and classmates can only help bring you closer, but it is you who has to find your center and own it. Don’t make it your goal to simply be able to perform a pose and “copy” what your teacher is doing. Rather, practice yoga with the intention of making the asanas work for you. Respect the process and patiently go through it, so you can reap the full benefits of your practice.
Remember this same principle as you go through life’s challenges. It won’t be easy, and there will be days when your stance will wobble, your legs will shake, and you’ll feel that you will fall out of where you stand. But if you’re guided by the right goals and good intention, you will find a way to achieve balance to make your journey much more fulfilling.
2. Learn “Metta” meditation.
Loving kindness, or Metta, is a form of meditation that emphasizes love of self, and how it is only by establishing this inner sense of connection with yourself that you can also love the people and things around you. Think of it as a “wave” emanating from your core; it’s the peacefulness and love from within that enables you to practice loving kindness in the things you do, and toward those in your family and greater community.
The practice of yoga starts with us as an individual endeavor. To do yoga in your own sacred space is to love yourself enough to focus on improving your health and overall well-being. You practice loving kindness by loving yourself. Just like with life and the people we meet, relationships we form, we participate and start as individuals and leave as part of a bigger community.
3. Realize that it’s not a competition.
In yoga class, it can get tempting to look around and see how your classmates are doing and how they’re progressing through the asanas. Many of us are guilty of this self-imposed pressure to practice yoga in the same pace and intensity as those around us. But as I’ve said, yoga starts as an individual journey. Comparing yourself with others and competing with their own yoga practice will only cause you physical and emotional pain.
The same goes with life – the way we live, the things we accomplish, and the people we meet will be different from everyone else’s because we're all on our own personal journeys. Focus on loving and being kind to yourself first – discover your own path to peace and wisdom, so that hopefully you can help and inspire others to do the same for themselves.