I spend lots of time each week talking with my students before and after class about life, their practice, their bodies or anything really. What I’ve found after countless conversations is that there are a few things I wish every person, yogis included, knew. Regardless if you’ve tried yoga or not, here’s a few things we should all be mindful of:
1. Stop Saying “I’m Bad At Yoga”
This quite frankly just isn’t true. Most students, when they say this, are referring to the physical practice of building strength, flexibility, and balance. What we need to remember is that the physical practice, or the asana, is one component of 8 different limbs that bring yoga to what it actually is. Before the physical practice even begins, ask yourself this simple question:
Are you kind to yourself, others, animals, and this planet? Are you breathing with purpose? What does your breath pattern look like?
I always say if you’re being kind and breathing, you’re practicing yoga. Reframe your thoughts and words next time you tell yourself you’re not going to a yoga class because you are “bad” at it. Maybe you could work on balance, strength or flexibility? Well yes duh, we all could. That’s why we’re there!
2. Just breathe!
As a yoga teacher, getting adults to breathe on purpose is (usually) more difficult than asking them to put both feet behind their head and jump up and down on their butts (that’s not an actual yoga pose…that I’m aware of – in case you were wondering!). If you want to reap the physical benefits of yoga, you’ve got to breathe.
Breathe deep, breathe on purpose, breathe with intention.
This should be your focus throughout the class, before you even start to focus on the pose. If you focus on your breath, you’ll feel a difference, not only with your body but also with your mind. Focusing on your breath allows your mind to relax and your nervous system to settle. Isn’t that why we’re all here anyway?
3. Let That Ego Go
I’ve been there. I get it. You fall out of a pose and stumble off your mat. You’re embarrassed because everyone behind you and the teacher just witnessed the fall. I’ve been there, and I’ve also been on the other side, where my ego flares up and I’m thinking “Oh look at me I’m so perfect in this pose.”
If you stick with a consistent yoga practice, you may find that your ego starts to become quieter. You care a lot less about what everyone else in class is doing and more on your own practice; your own mat.
You may even notice the thoughts towards yourself beginning to change. Maybe you find yourself speaking kind words. My gawd “how dare the ego soften a little.” So if you’re a beginner, this should come as a relief to you. Trust me, no one is thinking about YOU falling. They’re too busy trying not to fall themselves! As a teacher, I encourage falls! (She’s crazy, you’re thinking.) When I see a student fall, it means they are trying; finding their edge. They’re playing. They’re practicing. THEY’RE EXPERIENCING.
4. Yogis Take Their Practice Off The Mat
Yoga offers so much more to us than physical benefits. Yoga has changed my life (something I’ll share with you later) not only physically, but in other amazing, unexpected ways off my mat as well.
I’m (usually) more patient, calm, kind, self-reflective, discerning, independent, and healthier than I was before I practiced yoga, simply because I choose to take time for myself.
I choose to breathe on purpose and to create space to be so that I can be light for others I love and know.
5. Each Body Is Built Differently
We’ve got 7 billion-ish bodies out there, so we’re bound to see some differences among us. Some are built for open and expansive backbends. Others have natural flexibility. Then you have people who are naturally calmer than others. Each physical body is different, so each pose is going to look different, for each person. Again, I want to reiterate this. Focus on what’s happening on your mat. Be with YOUR body, YOUR breath, and YOUR mind. And remember – this is a PRACTICE. It is yours to grow, not somebody else’s. Perfection is overrated.
May this inspire you to try something new, to take time for YOU, and to most importantly – BREATHE ON PURPOSE. Yoga is a gift. Each breath we’re given is a gift. Use it to be light.