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Find Your Beginner's Gaze

For all of us yogis and yoginis, it’s so helpful to call to mind the days of your first few yoga classes. You’re able to acknowledge your own personal process and note all of the feels that came along from point A to point Now, which will inhibit Ego from barging on through like the Kool-Aid Man and knocking over your present vision. My first few times on the mat began with just that -- a Kool-Aid Man-sized ego.

As a child, I quickly realized how type A I was. I always wanted to be the absolute best at anything I tried the first time I tried it. I got involved in every activity I possibly could -- piano, violin, cheerleading, gymnastics, lacrosse… I even had a short stint with musical theatre. And each time, I would become so disenchanted by all of the other kids around me who seemed so gifted at whatever the activity that I was envious of their effortlessness. I’d practice and practice (even though I loathed it probably 95% of the time) and I felt like it still didn’t change anything. Nothing would ever make me as good of a pianist or gymnast in comparison.

Because of my perfectionism, in each of my activities and things I propelled myself into, I was so afraid of doing something wrong. Playing the wrong note in a piece I spent tons of time memorizing, screwing up part of a cheer routine, missing a ball in lacrosse. Everything was always finite -- there was always a right note and a wrong one, the right sequence and the wrong one, and the caught ball or the missed one.

Starting yoga at a young age had the same effect for me. Going in, I never wanted to look like I didn’t know what a certain pose was because I was so accustomed to this black/white, right/wrong kind of thing. I wanted to walk in and be all, “Beginner? Ha! Just call me Krishnamacharya.”

Let’s just say I got knocked down a few pegs.

I did gymnastics, but I couldn’t put my foot behind my head. I was a cheerleader, but I couldn’t get into handstand properly and hold it. Quite honestly, the flexibility I thought I had didn’t allow for much in terms of the advanced postures I wanted to master right away and I was surprised at what was totally inaccessible to me.

But I quickly realized the thing that would change it all for me: On my mat, there were so many OTHER options! “Handstand in the middle of the room or do nothing” became standing leg raise, plank and reclined handstand. “Down dog or do nothing” became child’s pose, puppy pose and comfortable seat. Even “cross-legged seat or do nothing” became heroes pose and child’s pose. My life benefitted from this as well: “Write 6 reports in one night or do nothing” became prioritizing one piece at a time; “Teach yoga every single day, as often as you can” became teach when you can, but leave time for practicing and recharging.

Whereas all of my other “interests” of old didn’t unfold variations and options for me with each screw-up and failure, my yoga practice did. That’s what made being a yogi okay for me, both on day 1 and day Now. That’s why I keep coming back.

Whatever your story of first few days on the mat entails, keep that story in your mind’s eye. Acknowledge those moments for what they are and keep coming back to your mat with your beginner’s gaze so it continues to be the foundation on which you build. I promise you will be all the better, wiser and happier for it.

If your beginner’s gaze is still pretty new and you are looking to begin practicing in a safe environment where screwing up is 110% okay, come join our Level 1 Semi-Private classes on Saturdays at noon. We’ll break down postures, get comfy with our props and fully embrace our beginner selves.


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