From the very first time I stepped onto a mat at It’s All Yoga, my inner dialogue before each practice has been largely the same:
I thank myself for moving away from the computer and off the couch. I recognize that simply by walking through the studio doors, I’ve done something kind and loving. I remind myself that just being here — breathing, feeling, existing in my body — is enough, and I don’t need to do anything more.
Then after I have a chance to tune in to the quality of my breath, to the calmness (or lack thereof) of my mind, to the little (or occasionally not so little) aches and pains that exist in my body, I’ll ask myself: what do I need from this practice today? I will consider:
Am I in the mood to move, sweat, and be active? Would my body + mind benefit from an active practice? Would I benefit more from rest + relaxation? Then I remind myself that at any point during my practice, I can always choose to rest in child’s pose, chill out with my legs up the wall, or completely opt out of today’s “fancy pose” — that all of these are loving options and that yoga is about self-love and acceptance of where we are right now.
This pre-practice routine has served me well:
- It helps get me out of a thinking space and into a feeling space.
- It helps me figure out what my needs are and how to meet them today.
- It helps keep my body safe from injury because the more tuned in I am, the less likely I am to overdo it (not a perfect science).
- It helps me remember that this is MY practice, not someone else’s.
The Bhagavad Gita (a core text of the Hindu tradition) tells us that: “It is better to do your own duty badly, than to perfectly do another’s; you are safe from harm when you do what you should be doing.” These words have been rattling around inside my head since we read the Gita during yoga teacher training. What I love about these words is that they strongly underscore the fact that my practice is my practice, and your practice is your practice. We all have our own individual work to do.
I see this lesson play out on my own yoga mat: Sometimes I catch a glimpse of someone else doing something “cool” and I instantly covet their yoga pose. “I. must. do. it. NOW!” my brain tells me! Only problem: my body is currently not strong/flexible enough to create that shape safely. Oh but the urge to try anyway is SO hard to ignore and the judgements about my own (lack of) abilities are hard to keep at bay.
And other times it cuts the other way: For example, I’m in a roomful of people who are new to inversions and the teacher asks us to move into Handstand, a favorite of mine. “Should I hold myself back and not do the full pose so that other people don’t feel bad, so that they don’t think I’m showing off?” I’ll find myself wondering.
These are valid and normal thoughts and feelings. In fact, maybe you’ve felt this way too. But here’s the thought that I hope we’ll all take with us:
IT’S YOUR PRACTICE, no one else’s, so what are YOU going to do with it?