In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities; in the experts mind, there are few.
― Shunryu Suzuki
With a growing body of research uncovering the efficacy of yoga and meditation for improving stress levels, sleep quality and depression, as well as improved flexibility, strength and stamina, it’s unsurprising that more and more of us are stepping onto the yoga mat seeking the antidote to modern living.
5 things to know before rolling out the mat.
For those considering taking the plunge, here are 5 things to know before rolling out the mat.
1. Let Go of Competing
This may be the first time we’ve been a beginner at anything for a long time. Enjoy the experience with curiosity. We push ourselves in daily life and at work, letting go of striving for perfection can be a hard concept to grasp for high-achieving professionals but this compassion and openness is a key message from yoga. Notice what you’re telling yourself in some of the more challenging postures. Are you comparing yourself to others? Questioning what the posture ‘should’ look or feel like from the mind? Losing the ego on the yoga mat isn’t just a spiritual ideal, it’s really the best way to ensure you stay safe and get what you need from the practice.
2. We don’t have to be flexible
‘I’m not flexible enough to do yoga’ is a common statement. The humorous yogi retort is ‘that’s like saying you’re too dirty to shower.’
It’s funny but it provides perspective.
As with any new skill, we have to start somewhere. Yoga is a hugely accessible practice suitable for almost any body and when we master #1, this gets easier. We are already capable of a lot more than we think.
3. We are our own teacher
This statement might leave you wondering what you’re paying for in class but the point is the teacher is only a guide. Only we know our own body and what it’s been through right up until the moment we step on the mat. Every body is different and it’s important to notice how we approach a pose. If there’s struggle or forcing from the mind, rather than ease and curiosity in the body, injuries can happen. Far from a sign of weakness, pausing to relax in a resting posture mid flow takes strength and total conviction in YOU.
4. We might fall in love. With our body.
William Broad smashed the widely held idea that yoga assisted weight loss by raising the metabolism in his book, ‘The Science of Yoga.’ While some more aggressive styles may, in fact, have this effect, in general the practice has been proven to lower metabolism. The reason regular yoga practitioners are generally in good physical health has a lot to do with learning to tune in to the body. When we listen to what we need on the mat, noticing where we hold tension or where we may have tightness, we start a deeper relationship with our bodies. Appreciating that we have only one body and that it is perfect just as it is can be a profound revelation. It becomes natural to want to nourish, strengthen and protect that.
5. Bring an open mind
Like touching down in a new country, stepping onto mat means we don’t know exactly what’s going to take place or who we’re going to meet. Our attitude will determine how much we take from the experience. Letting go of expectations about what should happen in class or how we should feel can completely change the experience. Compelling our minds to switch off and relax is akin to forcing ourselves to sleep. Noticing how we feel and what we’re telling ourselves throughout the practice can be an enlightening exercise that informs life off the mat too.
Deciding to incorporate a yoga practice into daily routine can be the start of a remarkable journey with many hidden trails to explore.
Enjoy the ride!