We often try to cultivate a “beginner’s mind” in yoga. Approaching your practice anew each time helps you become fully present and encourages a deepening of your experience as you notice subtle shifts and sensations. This is the opposite of going through the motions of familiar poses to “get to the end” or thinking “I know this…and I know what’s coming next”.
“In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few” – Shunryu Suzuki
It can be surprisingly difficult to get to this beginner’s state of mind, but sometimes life sends you an opportunity where it’s all you can do. My pregnancy and giving birth have certainly provided such opportunities.
When I was pregnant I felt very much like a beginner again. There were some things I shouldn’t do any more and other things I couldn’t do as my pregnancy progressed. My body felt different every day and I was anxious about practicing safely for my baby, so it was a constant exploration of what felt ok each time I stepped on the mat.
Now, four months postpartum, having emerged from the “fourth trimester”, I’m just starting to get back into my asana practice. But with some diastasis recti (separation of abdominal muscles) I need to go really slow in building up my core strength and there are lots of things that used to be in my practice that I need to avoid for now. This means I have to be very patient with my body to avoid doing too much too soon. No sun salutations for me at the moment!
I’ve also found that it’s taking a lot of concentration to find the connection between my breath, body, and movement. This used to come so naturally to me so it’s a bit of a surprise. I can imagine this is how it feels to be a brand new yoga beginner. I have to admit there are times when I find it frustrating, but I’m also enjoying the process of rebuilding my practice and getting more familiar with this version of myself. I’m trying to embrace this opportunity to practise with a beginners mind (and body), and I’ve no doubt it will also make me a better teacher too.
If you’re new to yoga, I invite you to enjoy this stage of being a beginner and be open to exploring how yoga feels in your body and mind each time you practise. Remember that experienced yogis try hard to find that state of mind, but you have it naturally – make the most of it!
And if you’re an experienced yogi, what is your experience of cultivating a beginner’s mind? How does it feels to pare things back, come back to basics and be open to exploring the subtle nuances that change each time you practise?