If you’ve been practicing yoga for a while, you know your stuff. You know when the teacher is setting you up for bridge pose. You know when savasana is coming. You prepare. You predict. You settle in.
Sometimes, it’s hard to forget what it’s like to be a beginner, to be completely led by the teacher, to learn new things and move outside what you are comfortable with.
I was talking with a student after class the other day about what it’s like to come back to class after a few days (or weeks) off from practice. You can absolutely feel the physical challenge of it, but there’s more to it.
When you’ve stepped back, you’re able to come to the mat with a fresh perspective, you may have unlearned a few things. And, that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
Habits can be great. Habits can also hinder you.
How can you approach your yoga practice as a beginner, as someone who hasn’t picked up the habits of a practice yet?
What will you (re)learn?
So many times, I find myself on the mat and completely unable to find peace and enjoy my time. I find myself focusing on my abilities…what’s stretching, what’s fighting…
It’s a cycle; then, I’m focused on my mind’s tense, distraction and limits.
This has taught me to try approaching my practice more openly. Acknowledge there are times I get right into the groove, while I still have times it’s just not happening.
My practice is was it is.
Any way it’s expressed, your practice is your devotion to yourself. No matter how you think it measures up, it’s still a step made in your journey. Practice contentment.
Each yoga class starts off a bit differently. Every teacher and style has a unique approach. Whether there’s a pranayama (breathing) exercise, relaxation technique or just warm-up poses, the start of a yoga class sets the tone for that day’s practice.
I like to start each practice with an intention. I feel intention helps focus your energy and makes your practice more than a physical exercise.
Some may find intention intimidating or something they can just skip over, when really it’s easier than you may think and can make a huge difference in the quality of your yoga session.
There has to be a reason you showed up on the mat to practice. The practice of yoga teaches us to turn inward and practice a journey of self discovery. Why do you practice?
Think about this not on a grand scale but on a micro one. At this very moment, as your setting up for your practice, what is motivating you to go through these poses? What do you hope to achieve in this practice today?
Try to think beyond the physical. Though mastering a particular pose is a great goal, think about what that pose represents for you.
For example, if your goal is to do a headstand, perhaps your intention is to let go of fears that hold you back from going for it. Or, maybe your intention is to trust yourself to know if you’re ready to do it or not. Or, maybe your intention is to let go of that goal so you can enjoy the rest of your practice.
Intention can take your practice to another level and open you up to a new mode of self discovery. Try it, and let me know how it goes.
Do you practice with intention? What’s your favorite intention to move from?
My intention lately has been to maintain a present mind in my practice, letting thoughts go and enjoying each pose and moment as it happens.
The following is a gentle, basic yoga practice perfect for any time of day. Please consult your doctor before beginning any fitness routine and honor yourself: if you find yourself in pain, gently come out of the pose. Namaste.