Recently, one of my yoga teachers talked about how we think about engaging with our practice. She asked us to consider what we did when we stepped on the mat. Did we expect particular things from our practice? Did we not think to much about our practice and fall into old habits?
What I took away from this brief discussion was that it is easy to step onto our mat and simply go about our practice in a less than mindful way. We do a posture without thinking, and we fall into and out of it without thinking. This is likely because we have done it so many times that it’s become routine to us. How we get in and out of it, how long we stay in it, these may be things that are not new to us any longer and thus do not result in any wonderment or curiosity from us.
At the moment, I don’t think I have this particular difficulty as I am still new to the studio. Even a common posture such as down-dog still gets my attention most days because I am working on paying attention to my alignment and how my body feels day after day of doing it. But that’s because this posture, and the overall experience, are still fresh to me. At some point, there is the very real possibility that I will stop paying attention and fall into a pattern of simply doing the posture without thinking.
Move Mindfully On & Off the Mat
I think it’s important to take this concept of how we engage with what we do (both on and off the mat) and consider what we are/are not paying attention to. For this week, I challenge you to do the following:
(a) set an intention at the start of your practice to be aware of how you move into and out of postures. if there is a posture you are passionate about (one way or the other), you might want to pay close attention to it. in a Bikram practice, you might choose to pay attention to a subset of class (like the warm-up series). if you forget and fall into the habit of doing without thinking, just reset and continue on.
(b) off the mat, set an intention for your day – be it work or personal. maybe you want to set an intention for how you respond to people today (with compassion for example). maybe you want to make sure your entire day is done in an intentional manner.
At the end of each day, consider how the intention you set for your day or moment shaped you. Did you break a routine? Identify one? Deeply examine one? How did you grow?