"Even when, after due preparation, we are called to teach others, we would be wise to remain
learners, or, in traditional terms, to cultivate 'beginner's mind'...we stop growing when we think
there is nothing more to learn." - George Feuerstein
I wrote a blog post a year ago about getting inspired in your life. You can find a link to it here:
This week's post focuses more on how to find inspiration in the practice of yoga itself, by cultivating "beginner's mind". I am someone who is addicted to movement - not just yoga but dancing, walking in nature, running, biking. I feel better when I'm moving than when I'm inert. Our bodies are meant to move. I've always been a believer in finding what it is you love to do so much that you are willing to make time for it in your daily schedule. That's how I got started learning Raqs Sharqi or Middle/Near Eastern/North African Dance, aka "belly dance". I was approaching 30 and knew that if I wanted to stay healthy, I had to find something that I loved to do. I was working out at a gym at the time and running, but my knees were already giving me pain from running and I wanted to find something with lower impact. That's when I met my first dance teacher, Artemis Mourat. I fell in love not only with the dance, but the culture and the music and began studying not only dance, but drumming, rhythms and Turkish and Arabic languages as well as Romani culture. There was so much to learn beyond initial dance technique - it kept me continually inspired. Still, as I became a teacher and a performer of this dance, there were days when the dance became rote or felt uninspired. As a performer, I would take new classes, workshops or find new music. As a teacher, in preparing choreography for students, I'd sometimes have to skip huge sections of music and come back to it if it wasn't speaking to me in the present moment. I'd watch videos of other performers so I could stop and rewind and watch again to learn new combinations. I'd listen to different zil patterns in music and study and practice them. Eventually I'd come back and finish my choreography. Sometimes all I needed was a little time to go by and some fresh thinking or a fresh attitude. Sometimes, all I needed was to cultivate "beginner's mind" - to go back to the basics and look with new eyes to see what I might have missed.
As a yoga teacher with a daily practice, I sometimes fall into this same pattern. How can I keep my classes fresh? Of course, the obvious answer is to keep learning. Every class I take with another instructor inspires me. Every course I take for CEU's or as part of my Yoga Therapy training, gives me new ideas. And so life is a continuous journey of learning, refining, practicing and beginning again. Yoga IS a practice. It doesn't end. It's not a checklist of things to do that we cross off as we achieve them. Sun Salutations. Done. Plank Pose. Done. Chattarunga. Done. Headstand. Done. Handstand. Done.
Yoga is a way of life that goes far beyond asana. Asana is only one of the 8 limbs of yoga and when we limit ourselves to the physical practice, we are bound to get stuck or get bored. Often times, taking a break from asana and focusing on the other 7 limbs is inspiring - in and of itself. Studying the Yoga Sutras has always been my favorite part of practice as well as learning to be still and meditate. Taking a 2nd look at the Yamas and Niyamas and how i am incorporating them into my daily living can be inspiring. Taking a different style class, learning to chant or attending a sound immersion experience can be inspiring.
There are also so many ways to take your practice off the mat. Mindfulness and meditation is a big one. Noticing yourself at work, in traffic, on public transit....Noticing the people and the world around you. Noticing how things, situations, people affect you physically, emotionally....Try clearing your mind and setting an intention for yourself in the morning before you leave your house - An intention to be more mindful or to cultivate "Beginner's mind". Notice how many times you forget your intention during the day. Stop, pause and find a moment to find your feet underneath you and feel the earth under your feet supporting you. Find your connection to earth and to others. Find your breath. This is yoga. If you keep a journal, try journaling about your experiences at the end of each day. See what you find out about yourself. It may just inspire you.