Do you have a beginner’s mind when it comes to your yoga practice? When you were new to yoga (or if you still are), you probably did not know what to expect. You went to class with a beginner’s mind—one that was eager to learn. You did not guess which pose was coming next or imagine you already knew how to do the asanas.
Newer yogis usually prefer gentle classes. These are the best for learning the poses. They are also great for opening the body, because they move at a slower pace. But if you’ve been practicing for a while, you may skip beginners’ classes altogether. Maybe it’s time to go back to basics!
Why Even Seasoned Yogis Can Benefit from Beginner’s Mind
Have you ever been in a class where the teacher had a different way of presenting something you’ve done a thousand times before? I recently had this experience when a new teacher showed me how to take care of my wrists in poses like plank and downward facing dog. Even after decades of practice, I needed a beginner’s mind in this case.
When to Use Beginner’s Mind in Yoga
First, try to be aware of the foundation poses. These are the poses most yoga classes are based on, including
- Mountain pose
- Standing forward bend
- Standing backward bend
- Downward facing dog pose
- Child’s pose
- Staff pose
- Easy pose
Once you’ve mastered the foundation poses, you’ll want to get familiar with the basics of yogic breathing. No matter how long you’ve practiced, keep returning your attention to the breath. Bring awareness—that is, beginner’s mind—to the in and out breath without trying to change anything about your natural way of breathing. Remember also to use ujayii breath throughout your practice.
Beginner’s Mind for Warriors
Another group of poses we learn as beginners but continue to practice are the warrior poses. It’s easy to stop paying attention to form and alignment when doing these poses. So again, beginner’s mind is helpful. Notice the placement of your feet as you move from warrior one to warrior two. Pay attention to your arms, and be sure they are parallel to the ground in warrior two. Notice whether your fingers are spread and if your hips are square when they should be.
Do the same for triangle pose, another basic pose you’ll practice in most classes. Triangle is a twist, so notice where you are twisting from. If you’re not sure about alignment, watch a video or ask your teacher. Teachers appreciate beginner’s mind no matter how long a student has been practicing!
Sun Salutations for Beginners (and Everyone Else)
There’s no better time to practice with beginner’s mind than when you salute the sun. Sun salutations are flows that offer the opportunity to practice basic poses in sequence. You can watch your body move, paying attention to the placement of your hands and feet. Notice your leg travel toward the top of the mat for low lunge. Feel the stretch in the back and sides of your body as you rise and lift your arms for a standing backbend. Notice the strength in your core when you move from plank through chaturanga and back to downward dog.
Keeping beginner’s mind in your practice doesn’t mean you won’t improve. It means you’ll never get so sure of yourself that you stop learning. And that’s a very good thing!