Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The Beginner's Mind

I love teaching yoga classes no matter how long the participants have been practicing, but nothing brings more joy to my heart than teaching beginners. I can still remember my first yoga class, many years ago, and I recognize the awkwardness, discomfort and self-doubt that accompany the first time someone sits in easy pose and tries to focus on the breath. Anyone can teach a class when everyone knows what to do. We prove our mettle as yoga teachers when the students sitting awkwardly in that first easy pose, discovering stiffness and soreness in cat rolls and, obvious from the looks on their faces, telling themselves they were not cut out for this, come back to the next class, and the next. If they continue, I get to experience the joy of watching the moment they realize they are in triangle pose feeling strong and comfortable, when a big heart-opening let them drop back into camel, or when easy pose is no longer awkward.

We were all beginners once, before we started on the journey of self-discovery that is yoga. In truth, we are always beginners; each time we step on our mats we start from where we are and begin a journey to find something new. To advance our practices we have to be willing to be awkward  beginners over and over again.

We call it the beginner's mind - the ability to try everything as if it was brand new, be a bit nervous but give yourself permission to screw up because, after all, you're a beginner. It's letting go of the preconceived notions of what your practice is going to be like and sitting awkwardly in easy pose, really concentrating on breathing and trying not to guess what comes next. It's kicking up to the wall in handstand and, instead of analyzing what you're doing wrong, simply marveling at the fact that you're upside down.

We are two classes into this spring's Beginner Hatha series at the True North Yoga studio. I'm enjoying watching new practices unfold. If you're in the area and have never tried yoga, the next beginner class is Saturday at 1:00 pm. Don't worry about what you've missed. We're all beginners, after all.
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