Beginners Mind in our Yoga Practice (And off the mat!)
The beginners mind has been used in yoga and mindfulness to help us experience the present moment rather than focus on the outcome of our practice. John Kabat-Zinn calls a “beginner’s mind” one of the seven attitudes of mindfulness. This short blog explores some the benefits on and off the yoga mat of introducing the “beginner’s mind” into your everyday life.
There are some key practices to explore that keep us focused on the present moment with a beginner’s mind. For example, we have the practice of breath awareness, learning how to breathe with more intention. When we experience our yoga in ways that allow us to feel into each pose using our breath rather than worrying about the shapes we are making, we are able to discover our body from a more internal perspective. We can better sense how deep we can move and to feel good as we move. We can start to experience our yoga in ways that allow us more room to feel into each pose and take time to explore rather than perfect.
How many times have you heard me say “Let the breath be your guide”? Because it truly will guide you within your practice, if you are holding your breathe it’s time to back out of a pose, take a rest, or adapt the shape of the pose to suit your body.
Another key practice in yoga and mindfulness is learning acceptance – acceptance for yourself, giving you the room to start right where you are. Yoga doesn't begin when you master poses, it starts with no expectations; it begins the moment you step onto the mat regardless of how strong or flexible you might be feeling. This mindset gives you the foundation you need to maintain a fresh new perspective in each moment on the mat.
Compassion is another practice that can open your mind to possibilities and new beginnings as it helps us reduce resistance to what is. By treating yourself and those around you with kindness regardless of any limitations you or they may have.
What can we learn by approaching yoga with a new “beginner’s mind” outlook?
We can see things as they are, rather than as we want things to be. The beginners mind is fresh, and we start to experience our bodies with an open mind and can adapt ourselves to developing new ways off the mat as well and so better able to handle life’s challenges.
Practicing mindfulness in our lives can calm the mind and allow us to ground ourselves when our lives become busy. Of course, when we are feeling stuck, a new perspective, a new idea can transform our ways of thinking, helping us to make better decisions. Taking time out of your week to land on your yoga mat can help you re-focus on your mind and body, giving your mind space in between the thoughts (that we naturally have!), And it’s in those moments of space where we can find clarity.
So, the next time you roll out your mat, see if you can practice with your beginner’s mind, set an intention to be curious as you move through the yoga class. Approach each sequence, each pose, each transition, each moment with curiosity, as if it was the first time you have been there! Be curious about the how and the what, forget questions of why. Forget aiming for a particular end point or pose. Stay present and grounded. Stay curious and open.