So, I’ve been thinking about the Yoga Stop Doing list. What would that look like? Here’s something to jump start you. What do you need to stop doing in your yoga practice? Let’s just focus on the mat? Yoga off the mat, another time.
- Stop Thinking You Don’t Like Yoga. Time and time again I hear from friends who say they don’t like yoga. Every single time those friends fall into one of two categories. Either they are people who say they can’t do it because it’s too quiet, too vigorous, too gentle, not challenging enough, not fast enough, not something or too something. I have no problem with people not liking yoga. Mostly, friends who say this to me, are really revealing more about themselves, than about yoga. So, I have two answers. One, you just haven’t found your teacher. There is yoga for the weekend warriors, yoga for the hippy, yoga for marathoners, yoga for arthritis and even yoga for the Christian/Jew/Mennonite. You just have to find the teacher that resonates with you. I can’t tell you how many people I’ve met who say, I didn’t think yoga was for me and then I met…. The other answer is that you’re possibly missing the point of yoga. Yoga is a mind/body/spirit practice. If you like the physical, but really balk at the emotional, that’s probably where your work is. This is the challenge for you. This is the lesson you’re suppose to learn.You may think you’re coming to the mat for a great workout, but maybe there’s something more for you. Don’t ignore what you’re resisting, it’s often exactly what you need.
- Stop Comparing Yourself to the Person on the Mat Next to You. We’ve all heard our teachers remind us to stay on our own mats, but how often do we find our eyes sliding to the person next to us to see how far the can relax into a pose? The biggest reason to stop comparing? Comparisons make us feel dissatisfied. Learning to be present with what is makes us feel more satisfied in life. Keep looking across the street and see the new car and the renovations? It makes us feel that we’re not enough. Look at the other neighbor across the street and see an over-grown garden and a 10 year old car, we start to feel a little better. The trick? Don’t compare. If we don’t compare to those around us, we’re more likely to feel satisfied with our own lives. Stay on your mat and your practice is more satisfying.
- Stop Pushing Yourself in Poses That Don’t Feel Good. Your practice should feel good. It seems silly that I have to say something like that, but a lot of people seem shocked when I say that. They’re also shocked when I say not every body should do every pose. There are poses that I shouldn’t do, poses that aren’t good for me. In the early days of yoga, once yoga incorporated poses into the practice, your guru would teach you poses that were good for your body specifically. He took into account your lifestyle, your diet, what you were resisting and he assigned poses just for you to master. Talk to your teacher. If there’s a pose you always get hurt in, maybe it’s not good for you. If you can’t find the ease in a pose, maybe you need to find a different pose with the same benefits. If there’s a pose you’re really struggling with, maybe it’s not the pose you’re supposed to master. We like to feel that we can master anything. Sometimes the lesson is that we shouldn’t master and to be okay with that.
- Stop Suffering Through Poses. When your teacher says find the ease in the pose, she really means it. In every pose you should be able to find ease or you’re not ready for that pose. Did you hear that? In EVERY pose you should look for the ease. If you’re too deep in a pose you don’t get the full benefits. Even in a simple forward fold, you should find your edge, and then move back. You should look for the place where the pose really challenges you and then slide back a bit, till you find the place of ease. I know it’s not what a lot of teachers are teaching these days, but it’s a fundamental in yoga. What if it’s a really easy pose? Students often ask this. What if you can’t find the challenge in a pose, so you can never slide back from the edge? You’re doing something wrong. Every pose has the capacity to be as gentle or as intense as you need it to be. If you never feel a challenge in a simple pose like forward fold, Uttansana, then you’re not doing it right. Talk to you teacher and ask how to feel challenge in simple poses and the ease in a difficult pose. Every practice can be gentle for you or a challenge for you.
- Stop Thinking Certain Poses Are Too Easy For You And Aren’t Worth Your Time. I can’t say this one enough. Every single pose is a challenge pose. Let’s take Uttanasana, again. It is grace in yoga. In can be a gentle pose for many of us, cause those of us who keep coming back are fairly flexible. You fold right at the hips and hang your head. To be easy- breezy in this pose you can soften your knees and wiggle your hips, shake your shoulders, swing your arms and shake your head. If you want more in this pose, you press evenly through your feet, press your sitz bones up to the ceiling, lengthening the hamstrings and bring your chest towards your knees. If you have a belly, this is a great place to move into the emotional and move your flesh by taking your hands and pressing the belly flesh towards your spine and then folding deeper. Super flexible? Maybe this pose is asking you to deal with your belly issues. Whether you have a belly or not, it asks you to let go of what is no longer serving you. Yoga is about body, mind and spirit. Not every pose challenges you in a physical way. Sometimes the challenge is mental or emotional. Where does your brain go when I ask you to push the flesh up to your spine? Maybe that’s your work.
These are my top five. I’ve probably got another five, but deal with these first and we’ll talk soon.