How often do we talk down on the person we were when we began something? I was so young and foolish...naive...did so many things wrong...I can't believe I didn't know such and such was that!
But the person we were when we started a job, task, family, college, yoga, etc is worth remembering and praising. Even though we knew much less, we opened ourselves to make the mistakes and learn more. That's brave!
It's easy to forget that yoga is a continuing practice and not a final performance. Earlier this week, my downward dog felt ALMOST like a resting pose, it was so steady and relaxed. Then this morning, I felt restricted and uncomfortable. My first instinct was to TRY HARDER DARN IT! Didn't help. Then, it was to say FINE, WHATEVER, I HATE THIS POSE ANYWAY and escape. Nope, not much better. So, my more rational self said, "Hi Caitlin's Ego! Why don't you approach this moment as a beginner? You were very stiff and frustrated when you first did the pose, so can you step into those shoes with more compassion? Can you, like, be cool and have no expectations about it?" My ego grumbled some profanities and took a seat as I modified and tried to breath into the pose just as it was.
Beginner's Mind! What a workout.
I learned the true use of a beginner's mind from two former students. (Names are changed for privacy.)
Samantha took my night class at Cecil College a few years back. She had never taken yoga before. She admitted that it would probably be difficult at first. She used every prop I handed her and took every modification. She never looked embarrassed or frustrated, but in a constant state of wonder with yoga. She enjoyed being a beginner and learning. She even laughed at her mistakes. I still think of her when I start to beat myself up for simplifying a pose or backing off.
Luke was in my evening classes in West Chester. He told me the first day, very matter of fact, that he felt really out of shape and wanted to feel healthier. He used to do yoga regularly, but had fallen out of practice due to a very stressful job. Even though he tired easily, he moved with awareness and deep breathing. He had to modify and take breaks a lot at first, but came faithfully every week. Over the months, he was patient with himself and began to feel stronger. I admired, not so much the result of his diligence, but his process. As with Samantha, there was no trace of shame. He was really okay with being in different stages of practice.
Luke and Samantha still inspire me. I look up to anyone who is okay, who recognizes and uses their struggles to learn more. We all have challenges on and off the mat which effect our bodies and minds. How crazy to expect perfect end results! A fresh start has so much more possibility...
When you feel frustrated, come back to the beginning. Backtrack and revisit first meeting the pose. No expectations or baggage! It's all a variation of fetal pose.