In Yoga we talk a lot about maintaining a beginner’s mind in our practice. So what exactly do we mean?
Often in our Yoga practice (and in life if we’re really honest), we base our experiences today on our previous encounters. For example, we often land on the mat today expecting that we should at least be ‘better’ at a physical posture than we were yesterday. Or we tell ourselves as soon as the teacher mentions Crow Pose – ‘I can’t do that’, because I couldn’t do it last week. We make assumptions based on yesterday in almost everything we do. From our Yoga postures to our relationships with loved ones and colleagues.
Having a preconceived idea when it comes to our practice is very common and unfortunately not very helpful. We all have poses that we struggle with. It might be a tight back, tight hamstrings or maybe our hips, so we often approach a posture with a sense of being defeated before we have even attempted the posture. On the other end of the spectrum, if we are super confident about a particular posture, if we assume we have already mastered the basics, we lose the ability to learn anything about the pose, our Yoga practice, or ourselves.
B.K.S Iyengar was quoted as saying he had still not mastered Mountain Pose after decades of practicing and teaching Yoga. He knew that each time he stepped on the Mat, each and every posture had the ability to show him something new, even after practicing a particular pose a thousand times over.
When we have been practicing Yoga for many years, it can be a challenge to remain a beginner. If we believe we have ‘mastered’ a physical posture or if we believe we are more skilled than our fellow Yogi, then we have closed the door on growth. We have kind of missed the point. If we start to judge or make assumptions before we truly experience then we lose the ability to be completely present on and off the mat.
This doesn’t mean that we completely forget about all of our valuable learnings but rather we place them off to the side so we can let go of ‘knowing’, see what else we can learn in this moment and allow it to be an experience.
With a beginners mind you are able to constantly open yourself to these new experiences. With an absence of preconceptions we can remain curious and keep our practice alive. Each pose is a new experience, each breath an opportunity to begin again. We start to take this off the mat. Each conversation and encounter, even with the same people is brand new. Each day presents a brand new opportunity. We can start to release the grip on autopilot, be truly mindful and experience deeper connections with the world around us.
‘In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities. In the expert’s mind there are few’. ~ Zen Master Shunryu Suzuki