This is often the time of year when we review our previous months and look forward to the months ahead. I try to look back over the year and put my disappointments in perspective and to highlight the joys instead. As I was thinking about what I wanted to write in this blog, I decided that, at this stage of my life (mid-sixties), attitude is more important than I had realized in my earlier years. I think in the yoga community, this is a very important issue that should be addressed more often.
With millions of people now practicing yoga, there are thousands who are hyper-flexible, ex-dancers and gymnasts, superior athletes, and so on, whose bodies are not typical and who can perform the yoga movements beautifully. The poses seen in magazines seem to be getting more complicated, more challenging, and are certainly not for the typical, average body. The key word here is “perform”. For those who have been teaching for decades, and also just for many who already get this, I feel that yoga is something that by definition should not be competitive, or painful or depressing. It should be uplifting, energizing, and calming. I always teach my new students that yoga is simply a path to helping you feel better in your own body. Therefore, this means that what feels good and appropriate for you is really all that matters.
So, how does attitude figure into all this. Well, if you tend to be a competitive person, your habits will be difficult to change and you will probably bring that competitiveness onto your yoga mat. On the other hand, if you tend to be more fragile or meek, you might also bring that version of yourself with you to yoga class. Of course, as I’ve said already, the fact remains that some people are very strong or very flexible and that is evident in their ability to perform fantastic poses easily. But, that does not really have anything to do with yoga, in my mind. It is the PROCESS of learning about yourself that is the true yoga, and that path can be affected by your attitude. Sometimes I have found that those who struggle more with some poses seem to learn more, since they have to discover more about themselves to figure out how to move ahead or beyond their supposed limitations. Those who find the poses to be easy often don’t have the chance to learn more about themselves as a result. It is the process of learning that is yoga.
How does attitude manifest itself in yoga? The minute you step onto a yoga mat, or enter a yoga class, attitude is present. Therefore, recognizing this, and then looking inside to observe your attitude can be useful. Notice if you are uptight, are you tense, are you angry, are you depressed, are you envious of those who look better or perform more easily than you. OR, are you arrogant, overly confident, ready to show others how wonderful your movements are? Be honest. How do you approach each yoga class or session. Where is your head, your heart? Are you just happy to be on the yoga mat, happy to be doing something for yourself to make your life better, happy to be sharing yoga with others? So many things to notice…
I remember teaching a student who has gone on to become quite a famous yoga personality in his own right now. But, I felt at the time, he was always pushing so hard, trying to conquer a pose. I suggested that he needed to love his poses, to love his practice and to enjoy more instead of constantly trying to push so hard. I don’t mean that as a yoga student, you should not try to move forward, but what does that really mean? The art of being able to observe yourself, to notice when you are adding too much ego to your practice, to accept when your body is telling you to slow down, even though your mind is wishing you could do more, is your yoga. I remember once being told that Mr. Iyengar said yoga teaches you the meaning of infinity. In other words, you will NEVER really conquer a pose, or reach the end of a pose. There is always more to learn. And, it absolutely does not matter how flexible, strong or beautiful you are to follow this path. ATTITUDE. Pay attention, make adjustments, and enjoy yourself. HAPPY NEW YEAR!!
If you have any questions or comments, or want to preview a copy of my Yoga for Arthritis DVD, my Yoga for MS DVD, or my book, Yoga for Fibromyalgia: Move, Breathe and Relax to Improve Your Quality of Life, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. These are all also available at Amazon.com.