“In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few.”
-Zen Master Shunryo Suzuki
One of my co-workers is a certified yoga instructor. Lucky for us, he was approved to give a free 6 week yoga course after work one day a week. When we started the series, he made it clear that we would be approaching the 6 weeks with a beginner’s mindset.
Yoga with A Beginner’s Mindset
I started out doing yoga from videos years ago. Going to a live class intimidated me. I didn’t have the different Warrior stances memorized, let alone the other more complicated (to me) sequences.
It was only when I joined the YMCA and prioritized movement and exercise that I started attending a yoga class on a weekly basis. My instructor was humorous, welcoming, and encouraging. I started feeling comfortable with the sequences of movements and the flow of each class.
It was easy for me to approach yoga with beginner’s mind because I knew I was not an expert. I did not expect myself to be able to do a headstand, but was open to learning the steps to be able to do one eventually. It’s still pretty easy for me to assume a beginner’s mindset when it comes to yoga because I still feel like a novice.
What is Beginner’s Mind?
Beginner’s mind is:
- approaching something without any preconceived notions or expertise.
- It means being open to experiencing something in a different way
- It means being open to changes.
- It means not doing something on auto-pilot, increasing awareness
Yoga: An INVITATION
The first week of the 6 week series, we spent a lot of time breathing. We laid on our mats and just focused on our breath. We consciously expanded our stomachs, ribs, and chests as we inhaled, and fully exhaled with our mouths open and stomachs caving in.
We also did some of the foundational poses – cat/cow, mountain pose, down dog, and child’s pose. He went over tiny details about positioning in our hands and knees and feet. These were details that would be brushed over in a larger class. I had never been so carefully instructed in the details. I was grateful.
As a beginner I have been intimidated and self-conscious about my practice. These questions have run through my mind:
- “Where should my hand go?”
- “Am I supposed to breathe in or out with this movement?”
- “What was that sequence?”
- “Is the person behind me watching (and critiquing) me?”
I would be looking around at the other folks around me feeling lost. I would never ask those questions of the instructors during class, and they would not necessarily think to address them.
Benefits of a Beginner’s Mindset
When I approach yoga with a beginner’s mindset, I’m giving myself permission to make mistakes, perhaps look a little foolish, and to experiment. As a result, there is freedom of judgment and joy in moving and stretching in ways that my body needs but doesn’t often get.
This post from Mary at GoodLife Zen goes into more detail about how we can live life with beginner’s mind. This has prompted me to reflect on other areas of my life that I can approach with a beginner’s mindset. How would that change my interactions? How I feel about myself and others?
Do you practice yoga? What do you love about it?
A beginner’s mindset. I need to keep that in mind. I plan to start the Y for the water aerobics.
That’s great Melinda! We love how friendly and community oriented the Y is – and all of the programs that they offer!
Daisy @ Simplicity Relished says
I love this Angela! Oh my goodness, I have to tell you I went to a couple yoga sessions at my gym… and I swear the other people there were from the circus. They could contort their bodies in all kind of ways (despite the class being “all levels welcome”) and I felt SO out of place. I should give it a few more tries…
Daisy – yes, go back! I know it’s hard not to watch others, but as most instructors always remind us – “honor YOUR body” and what it is capable of today. Thanks for reading and commenting friend!
Lean Lena says
Wonderful how similar our posts are – this one by you and mine from today 🙂
I know! I love the way yoga can bring you inward. So valuable
I have practiced yoga in and out, but I have become quite consistent lately. At least 2 times a week I do it at home.
It has been a great experience for this perfectionism me. I lost flexibility, my balance is off, so yes, I also make a lot of mistakes and cannot perform the Asanas as they were meant to be. But you know what? I am happy. It helps me relax and stay focused. I am truly loving the experience.
That’s all that matters Debbie! Thank you for sharing your experience and benefits you get from yoga!
I love this, Angela! It sounds a lot like the mindset I try to have each year when the school year begins…and the attitude I hope for my students to have, too.
Yes! I’ve been thinking about how the beginner’s mind is so helpful in most areas of our lives.
What a great guide to help ease in to yoga. I never thought about approaching it from this angle. Thanks for sharing. #ConfessionsLinkUp
Thanks for reading and commenting Amy!
Alayna @AlaynasCreations says
I love your last paragraph about giving yourself permission to make mistakes and look foolish. There are so many ways in life we could feel better about, or have the courage to try if we look at it that way.
Thanks for sharing with us at the #HomeMattersParty
Great post on yoga as a beginner, Angela. I have been doing yoga for about 12 years now and have actually never taken a class. I started out with books and dvd’s from the local library which then turned into me buying my own books and dvd’s and also using sequences from Yoga Journal magazine. I love doing yoga – especially on Sat. mornings.
That’s wonderful Kimberlee. I really enjoy yoga with both videos and in a class setting. Definitely a different vibe.
I haven’t done yoga in a long time, but want to get back into it. I go to the gym 4x a week so I need to make time on another day for it. I need to go back to the beginner mindset because I’ve forgotten all the poses.
The beginner’s mindset is real! I’ve totally felt the same way as I’ve begun to practice yoga. Thanks for writing such a relatable post.
i’m from Philippines but now in riyadh ksa as ofw, and i dont have any idea if there is a yoga class here. im a super novice in this field. my reason of joining is to find peace of mind- away from anxiety, despair and stress. for a week now, im just watching videos from you tube, it is super difficult. but i wont stop there.
Good for you Mimi! I love how YouTube allows us to try different exercises that we normally wouldn’t have access to. I agree that yoga is particularly good for relieving anxiety and stress.