People are funny. People are funny without even knowing they’re funny. One thing that I often hear new students say that makes me laugh out loud is “I’m not good at yoga.” My go-to reaction to this statement is “there’s no such thing at being good at yoga.”
But recently, I’ve been giving this some deeper contemplation. Is there such a thing as being “good at yoga” and if so, what does that look like?
Yoga is certainly not about comparing yourself to others, so even using a relative term like “good” is unhelpful at best. But what I think they mean is “I’m not flexible or strong and I can’t twist myself up like a pretzel” Well, I’m here to tell you, unequivocally, those things do not make you a good yogi! Flexibility and strength are very nice side effects of yoga, but they are not the goal.
However, if you’re new to yoga and want to start to go deeper in your practice, here are a few things I would recommend focusing on:
1) Intention - teachers often say at the beginning of a class “take a moment to set an intention for your practice.” Don’t skip this part! Even if that intention seems superficial at first, it’s important to be clear about why you came to your mat. Over time, your intention will deepen and your practice will become more about connecting to yourself, finding peace within or cultivating compassion. But whatever your reasons, bring them to mind and come back to them periodically throughout your practice.
2) Attention - Listening is a bit of a lost art. I’m not talking about listening to the instructions of the teacher (although this is important!) but listening to yourself. Ideally your class will begin with an opportunity to center or meditate. Practice listening to your breath and allow the chatter to quiet so you can really pay attention your inner voice. Move through your asana practice mindfully, listening to your body when it says you’ve gone far enough or you need to take rest.
3) Compassion - As the Buddha said “If your compassion does not include yourself, it is incomplete.” Yoga is challenging, and not just the asana part! Staying present, moving mindfully and remembering to breathe take effort and practice. As simple as these things may seem, they don’t come naturally to human beings. Watch your self-talk during your practice and remember to treat yourself with kindness and compassion.
Follow steps 1-3 and you get an A in Yoga! Just kidding, don’t worry about being good at yoga - just enjoy the journey. If you leave your mat feeling just a little more centered and with a little more love in your heart, you’re doing it right.