Happy Autumn Equinox! I don’t know about you, but it’s slowly starting to feel like fall around here. Cooler weather. Pumpkins on display at the grocery store. Cravings for soup and hot tea. Northface jackets. And of course, football!
Every few months I write about the seasonal check-in. The equinox/solstice is a great time to check in with how you’re feeling. I recommend reassessing personal and professional goals every few months instead of trying to stick to one New Year’s Resolution for a whole year. The fact is, it’s tough to stay on course for a whole year because our wants and needs change with the seasons. If you allow space for change, chances are you’ll be more successful in your pursuit of health and happiness. The only constant is change!
The beginner mindset
This week in my classes I’ve been offering up the theme of the beginner mindset. Think back to the time you took your first yoga class. For me, my first yoga teacher was a young woman who wore very light, flowy clothing, spoke softly and taught a gentle(ish) class at the University of Colorado rec center. I enrolled in a semester of classes and went twice a week. I don’t really remember loving yoga after those classes, so I went back to more traditional workouts with the P90X DVDs. It just so happened yoga was a part of that program.
Those yoga classes were my favorite part of the whole workout program. I felt like I was working hard and the poses were very challenging but I didn’t feel completely exhausted after every session. The only thing I didn’t like about that DVD was that it was 90 minutes (who has 90 minutes a day!?) and that it was the same routine over and over again.
So I tried a studio. One of my roommates was an avid practitioner at a studio down the street from where we lived. Really, every studio in Boulder was down the street from where we lived since there is practically a yoga studio on every corner. That studio had heated classes. Heat and I don’t have a particularly amicable past so I was a little worried, but I gave it a go anyway. I nearly passed out – like had to leave the room and then couldn’t see kind of pass out. But for some reason I went back.
I continued to learn. My body adjusted to the heat. I loved that the practice was physical enough to help keep me in shape but also relaxing enough to calm my anxiety. I loved how after awhile my eating habits slowly changed because my body felt so good and it seemed wrong to feed it crappy food. I loved how there was a community of like-minded healthy people at the studio who all cared about living a good, healthy life. I loved yoga!
The vulnerability of beginnings
Every student’s beginner story is different. Maybe you fell in love with yoga at first sight. Perhaps it took some experimenting with different styles to help you find the right practice for you. Whatever your story, beginner’s always have a particular mindset that is incredibly wise.
Beginners are vulnerable.
To walk into a yoga studio for the first time puts you into an extremely vulnerable position. You most likely don’t know anyone unless you come with a friend. But still, you might not know how to do any yoga poses and be afraid that you’re going to make a fool of yourself. Even if you’ve been practicing yoga for awhile, you probably don’t know who the teacher is or how the teacher teaches. The teacher might use different pose names or only speak in Sanskrit. Then what?
It’s even vulnerable to pop a DVD into the computer and do a yoga practice on your own in the comfort of your home for the first time. Even though no one else can see you, it can feel weird or stupid to be stretching your body into pretzel-like poses for no apparent reason.
Anytime you try something new, you are stepping up to the vulnerability plate. You are saying: I don’t know what I don’t know, but I’m here to learn. That is a powerful place to be. Your mind stays open. You’re ready to drink in knowledge. And hopefully, you have a healthy skepticism that allows you to question almost everything, at least in your own body. Does that feel good with my leg there? Will my shoulders allow me to do that? Are my hamstrings really that tight?
Real yogis are always beginners
As many students start to progress in their practice, they lose that beginner’s mindset. They learn the poses and stop questioning. They become accustomed to routine and lose some of the inherent mindfulness needed when they were a beginner. They risk going on auto-pilot.
But the beginner’s mindset is always available to you. It’s simply a matter of shifting your consciousness. If you intend to practice like a beginner, you’ll continue to question how your body moves into each pose every single day. You’ll continue to approach every pose like it’s your first rather then skip “beginner” poses because your practice is more “intermediate” or “advanced.”
There is no such thing as an advanced yogi.
Real yogis and yoginis are perpetual beginners. They’re always learning something new.
The ego wants you to progress. The ego wants you to be advanced. The ego wants you to chase after what’s next. But the soul thirsts for knowledge. The soul lives in the present moment. The soul keeps you grounded and reminds you that sometimes slowing down is better then jumping around in handstands all day long. Sometimes, savasana is the better option even though it won’t burn more calories.
Bring a beginner’s mindset to class
The next time you step on your mat, bring a beginner’s mindset. What is it like to really question each pose again like it’s the first time? I bet you’ll discover new sensations, new muscle relationships, and a new appreciation for your body, your mind, and your yoga practice.
It’s okay. Be a beginner. Every day. Your soul will thank you.
PS – Have you downloaded my ebook The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide to Yoga? It’s free when you sign up below for my Wellness Wednesday Weekly Newsletter!