Our practice is directly reflective of our tendencies in daily life. What you say to yourself in your practice, you often repeat in your thoughts about yourself and others. Here are some examples, see if any of these sound like a habit you may have created in your own mind:
Example #1: You look around the room at everyone else to see what they are doing. Once you do this, you tell yourself you will never look like / do that. You begin to ask yourself why even bother and feel defeated. In your life you most likely never feel good enough. No matter what you do, you feel like it isn’t enough.
Example #2: You look around the room at everyone else to see what they are doing. Once you do this, you say, “I can do that easily.” You then push yourself into a knot that might not be appropriate for your body on that particular day. In your daily life, most likely you are competitive with those around. It may be subtle and all in your head so others aren’t even aware of it.
Example #3: You have a bad knee/ back/ wrist. The entire practice you only focus on this limitation and forget the gift of movement you have been given in the rest of your body. Students who do this often see only their flaws and sometimes only see the flaws in others.
Example #4: You push yourself 100% in every pose and feel the only point of yoga is to push yourself all the way or why bother. This may be your motto in life, following an “all or nothing” or “no pain, no gain” approach to yoga and your life. You most likely fill every space in your life and have nothing left for yourself. No balance in your daily life because you spend your time trying to do it all. The flip side of this is that you become competitive in life, but compete against yourself and beat yourself up for anything you don’t do well 100% of the time.
Example #5: You focus on your alignment and work very hard to do each pose perfectly. If you fall out of balance poses, you beat yourself up and often replay the moment in your head. This is self-competition at its finest. You often take this into your daily life as perfectionism and beat yourself up, replaying conversations in your head over and over if you think you did something “wrong.”
Take a moment to think about your tendencies in the yoga room. Did any of the above speak to you or sound familiar? If one spoke to you, think about what this says about your habits in life. If none of these spoke to you, think about what mental chatter goes on in your head as your practice. Are you reinforcing habits of the mind such as perfectionism, negativity, or competition? How can you shift your brain in the yoga room to help you feel healthier outside the yoga room?
If you did resonate with one of the examples above, there is hope. As someone who beat herself up every time an adjustment was given, there is certainly hope. When I would get adjustments I immediately told myself I was doing everything wrong. Somehow, I slowly began to shift over time. I found deep breathing and only focusing on my mat was the first key. If I could return to my focus on the breath I found my thoughts of perfection slowly faded away because I wouldn’t give it the time it wanted to occupy my thoughts. I had no idea that this practice in the yoga room would directly impact my daily life. Don’t get me wrong, it took me 7 years to do so. But, eventually there was a mind shift and a life shift. The second key was practicing gratitude. I knew I wouldn’t ever be able to do all of the poses (there are over 1000 of them) so I began to be grateful for the ones I could do. I decided to work in those and find all the subtle nuances- not just in their alignment, but the feelings that came up with each. This gratitude shift changed my brain from saying you will never know it all to you will always know just enough.
Use the freedom in the yoga room to notice what thoughts or tendencies come up. Notice them without judgement and then simply stop paying attention to those thoughts. Instead, return to the steady, even qualities of the breath and feel grateful. Breathe in, stay present on your mat and leave the rest behind.