Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Habits Bring Inattention to Your Yoga Practice

Do you always place your mat or go to the same spot in the studio every time you attend a yoga class? I read an article where the writer, a yoga teacher wrote about doing yoga habitually with the same tone that one would be driving, sitting, reading or working. She observed her students falling into postures with little understanding of why and what they are doing as they move from their head rather than from their heart and from inner guidance. When the students do yoga habitually and mechanically, they are more likely to quickly grow bored with their practice.

She also wrote about yoga asanas being playgrounds to explore the balance of posture, lifting, energy and refining awareness. But often, due to poor habits of one’s practice, students react to their poses as though they are etched in stone. Whatever they did the last time they were in the pose, it is going to be the same. “This is where I was last time so this is all I can do today.”

From the article “Yoga as Self-Transformation”, the author writes about habits in the mind which tend to make us more "narrow-minded” resulting in being attached to a particular set of beliefs which limits the field of what is possible for our in life. The beliefs, values, headsets and even the wants that live in thought create self-images that determine what we think, imagine and therefore what we do. How much do memory, expectation, and immediate gratification affect the way you do yoga? What thoughts come up during your yoga practice? Are there postures you look forward to doing, while you avoid others? Do you hurry the ones you don't like to get them over with? Does your mind wander? Do you contemplate what posture to do next, how long you have left to go or what you're going to do after yoga? These types of thoughts may cross your mind while doing yoga. Naturally, they greatly influence how you do the pose and the quality of energy generated.

As I read the above articles, I realize that I am bringing some of these habits to my own yoga practice. I would normally go to the same spot in the studio and sometimes would not be willing to do a pose as I had not been able to do it previously. There are also times when my mind is wandering and I start to lose my focus which causes me to lose my balance in the pose. I know I have still a long way to learn to be fully present in the posture and learning how to let go - that it is the body that "decides" when to hold, when to back off, when to deepen and when to come out of the posture.

So the next time you step into your yoga class with your yoga mat, start by finding a spot that you haven’t sat in before and learn to leave your habits outside the door of the studio which is what I am going to do from now on.

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