Yoga basics: Approaching yoga with a beginners mind

By Kelly | 18th September 2016
Three women practise yoga outside

“In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities. In the expert’s mind there are few.” – Shunryu Suzuki, Zen monk

The beginners mind is having a fresh new perspective, taking old concepts and revitalizing them, making them feel exciting, unique and special. Imagine a child examining a brand new toy, something they have never discovered before. Their eyes come alive and they have a curiosity about them that makes each moment fresh.

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 Kabbat-Zinn calls a “beginner’s mind” one of the seven attitudes of mindfulness (we cover these attitudes in depth in our mindfulness classes at the retreat). This short article explores some the benefits on and off the yoga mat of introducing the “beginner’s mind” attitude into your 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 intent. 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.

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 kindly regardless of any limitations will help you achieve more of a beginner´s mind.

What can we learn by approaching yoga with a new “beginner’s mind” outlook?

We can see things as they are rather than struggle to see something as we want it to be. We begin to appreciate the moments in between and spend more time moving than posing. 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.

With this simplest of techniques or attitudes you can really start to enjoy yoga in the moment rather than focus on achievement. Starting with a blank mind eliminates all ego and gives you time to practice for the real authentic you. There is no need to prove or achieve something other than the practice itself at hand.

Yoga and mindfulness have the ability to unblock potential and help us to live with a new outlook on life. They help us add more mindfulness into our lives and can calm and allow us to re-centre 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.

So, the next time you roll out your mat, take a few moments in child’s pose to explore your inner child and practice with your beginner’s mind even before moving, set an intention to be curious as you move through the yoga class. Approach each class, each asana, each transition, each moment with curiosity, as if it was the first time you have been there – it is 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. Stay curious and open.

Move with ease for an exciting new journey with your beginners mind.

Read more about yoga retreats at La Crisalida by clicking here.

Headshot of Kelly - Health and Wellbeing Mentor at La Crisalida Retreats
Kelly

Kelly teaches yoga and meditation. She obtained her first Yoga certification in Toronto, then went on to study with Tara Stiles in NYC and Washington DC. Kelly encourages you to find your best self, encompassing body, mind and breath and inspires you to find ease in your yoga.

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