One of the keys to growing in your yoga practice—and your life—is to learn to leave the past in the past. Just because you wobbled out of Garudasana (Eagle Pose) or didn’t reach your leg in Natarajasana (Lord of the Dance Pose) at one point in your yoga journey doesn’t mean you have “bad balance” or that you’re super-tight. It simply means that at that point in your practice, or even on that day, there was a disconnect between how your mind wanted to experience that asana and what was available in your body. But, bodies change. The floor comes closer to your fingertips. You find that point where you’re suspended on your arms. You shift to one side and balance seems effortless. To make the most of that change, you need to embrace it.
Celebrate the “new you” that you’re building each time you come to your mat. Close your eyes and relax into the warmth of stretching muscles. You may have to consciously remind yourself that you’re no longer “not bendy.” You’ve left that aspect behind in a very real sense, but you won’t be able to move forward physically until you really accept that you’ve accessed new abilities that open up further opportunities.
Like someone who has lost weight or had a makeover, you can enjoying living and playing in a body that is not limited by the past. Think about what you’re able to do at each moment as you take class. Maybe your hip flexors have opened up enough that your hand and foot now connect in Natarajasana. Maybe your core has gotten strong enough that “hovering” in Chaturanga Dandasana (Four-Limbed Staff Pose) seems like flying. Or, it could be a mental breakthrough like understanding how to square your hips to the edge of your mat that makes Virabhadrasana III (Warrior III Pose) accessible.
Sometimes, though, the hardest part is standing back and acknowledging that you’ve moved past some things you used to think you were “bad at” or that didn’t come naturally. So many students bring preconceptions to the mat about being tight, weak or unable to balance. It’s all too easy to carry that baggage around even after you have physically become able to access those skills in your practice. And, it’s not just that you deserve to feel proud of what you’ve accomplished. So often, that negative self-talk hampers you in class, too. Thinking of yourself as limited stops you from “going for it” when the teacher gives more advanced poses, but it also stops you from being able to fully release into the depth of what you can do. Self-confidence is the best antidote to any lingering fear of failure.
So, the next time you practice, visualize that this is the first time you’ve ever hit the mat. Don’t think about what you did last class or last week. Just let the practice flow as you move. During Savasana (Corpse Pose) think about how that informed your practice. What was it like to move without your yoga ghosts?
Yoga is a wonderful way to learn to understand and enjoy your own capacity for growth and change. With each class, you gather more valuable information about your mind, your body and how they work together. No matter how long you’ve been practicing or what style you prefer, every time you come to your mat (in class or at home) is a step on a journey toward deeper understanding of your body and a wider range of abilities.