BEGINNER’S MIND by Sarah Steen
There were over 200 yoga mats lined up in a grid. The teacher stood on a stage at the front of the room and called out a pose in Sanskrit. Having no idea what the pose was, I nervously looked around the room. What do I do? What was everyone else doing?
“Don’t be afraid to try new things.” I think I have been hearing that my whole life. Trying new things can be scary. And exhilarating. And mind-expanding. And life-changing. However, particularly as adults, there is a sense that we are “supposed to” know things. After all, we have a lifetime of experience. Starting from the beginning, asking questions, admitting we don’t know something, exposes our vulnerability. The flip side of that coin is that we also show that we are open, inquisitive, and yes, human.
In the book, Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind, Shunryu Suzuki writes, “In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few.” Even for a long-time practitioner of yoga, it is essential to keep that open mind and not have set ideas of what the practice looks like. It is all too easy to get stuck in our ruts, our preconceived notions of what even the most basic pose looks and feels like, and then the practice becomes uninteresting and never changes. The idea that anything can happen can be exciting and allows the practice to evolve. Our practices can change as we change.
So, when those beginners-mind questions arise in your yoga practice, where do you look for answers? What do you do when you have no idea what that Sanskrit pose is (hint: look around the room) or don’t know where to put your hand or your foot? Maybe we don’t even know what question to ask? Where does one even start?
There are many resources online and books that hold a wealth of information. (My bookshelf runneth over!) However, everybody is different and what might be good information for one person is not applicable to another. Attending classes regularly so that a teacher gets to know you and your practice can make a huge difference. There is often a flow to the class so you may not be able to ask a question during the class, but approach your teacher after class. Private yoga instruction and workshops are great opportunities to go deeper, get personal attention, and have the time to ask questions.
I don’t know everything there is to know about yoga (and never will) but I have spent a great deal of time gaining knowledge from amazing teachers, practicing on and off the mat, and asking a lot of questions. I love sharing what I have learned with others and seeing that delight of discovering something new or finally reaching some understanding of a formerly inaccessible idea. Although my Sanskrit has gotten a little better, I still don’t know and can’t do every pose. Even poses I do regularly, I continue to notice new things about the poses and about myself as I am practicing. Twenty years of practicing yoga and I still enjoy being a beginner.
I encourage you to also enjoy being a beginner no matter how long you have been practicing yoga. Come and join me for
Namaste, Sarah Steen