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A Beginner's Mind

After returning to the yoga studio after the first weekend of yoga teacher training, I soon realized that my experience with the physical practice of yoga would forever be changed.

It was a Monday morning, with all of us students feeling slightly sleepy and blurry eyed still. The teacher shared a spiritual theme, detachment, to help set the tone for class. A specific story from The Gita (a spiritual text from India) was referenced and the suggestion was offered to practice detachment on the mat to prepare us off the mat.

What caught my attention immediately was the clarity of instruction. Although I’ve taken 100s of classes over the years, this was the first class where I actually heard each word (or almost each word) from the teacher. Normally my mind is focused on the actual pose or more realistically, wandering to some past or future setting.

The class started with a puttering (aka warm-up) sequence that included stretching our arms to the sky, a forward fold, moving in cat-cow, a downward dog, a lunge and a few more partial or full poses. Then, moving through a surya namaskar (sun salutation) sequence, I noticed my attention focused on every single word (catching any irregularity from what I began to anticipate the instruction would be). Each instruction was far more intentional than I had ever given teachers credit for.

During the first weekend of yoga teacher training, we had 6 hours of anatomy lessons. These were enriching and exposed me to new knowledge that I now appreciate greatly. Applying this new found knowledge in class, I began to examine which muscles were in expansion or contraction, extension or flexion, rotation or not, in each pose. I began to wonder about the intention for each pose, with a slightly more informed guess as to the muscles that were meant to be the focus. Having anatomy knowledge at the forefront of my mind led to a profoundly different (and more interesting) practice that helped ground my mind in the present.

I also began to let go of expectations (that were clearly self-created) to do a pose in a certain way. I’ve had some minor knee pain for some time now and where before I would still find myself in say a revolved lunge twist with my back leg straight, now more aware of my body and confident in my practice, I found myself resting my back knee on the ground without any shame or guilt.

In a yoga class setting, I am in close proximity to other students, which I often find distracting and intimidating. In this class though, I found myself less conscious and less concerned with others around me. As a result, my focus shifted towards what was happening on my mat versus in the room.

I may only be one weekend into training but I feel that anyone practicing yoga consistently would benefit from a basic understanding of the intention of each pose. It has been a while since I’ve been to a beginner’s class, that’s next on my list, but I suspect my opinion will remain the same: if you are passionate about yoga, you owe it to yourself to take time to gain knowledge about the practice.

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