Sweat pours down your face as it plummets to your yoga mat. A sharp pain shoots into your back as the breath leaves your body and the little voice in your head says, “No pain, no gain.”
You persevere despite all of the warning signs begging you to pull back. Your class ends. Another yoga session completed, but for some reason, you don’t feel better.
Mainstream yoga studios push the belief that the harder you work, the better your class will be. That mindset may prove helpful in CrossFit or spin class but it has no place within the yoga community.
Yoga’s purpose goes deeper than the calories burnt or positions mastered. Yoga’s singular purpose is to bring about higher consciousness and self-awareness to your mind, body and life.
When you push yourself past your point of comfort you are doing harm to your body by throwing it out of balance.
St. Petersburg Yoga, an organization with over 25 years in the area, has their own principles of yoga. Stillness, breath, beginner’s mind, balance and edge are the five fundamentals they ascribe to.
These five steps help make yoga more welcoming to those who may not be as comfortable in their abilities. The fundamentals encourage the individual yogi to take their practice at their own pace. When implemented properly, even the newest participant can practice in a power class.
Balance and breath may sound like a no-brainer but the other three are too often overlooked within the yoga community. Stillness in a yoga practice may sound strange — after all, isn’t yoga all about movement?
The concept of stillness isn’t sitting still but rather working toward stillness in the mind. Every time we find this stillness, we find change.
Breath is the bridge between the mind and the body. It is also the frontline assessment tool and should be considered in every posture. If you’re unable to breathe fully in your practice, chances are you should come out of it.
The best way to find inner balance is to find what may be out of balance. It goes deeper than if you can stand still on one leg. Balance means paying attention to your body to see if one side needs more work than the other or if a certain posture is throwing your body out of whack.
Beginner’s mind is also known as child’s mind. Come into every practice as if it is the first time you are encountering yoga. We tend to believe that if we’ve been practicing yoga for years then we no longer need to worry about the “simple” positions.
I began practicing at ten years old and by the time I was nineteen I thought I had yoga all figured out. That was until two years ago when I shattered my heel and lost my original practice. It was here that beginner’s mind showed me every time I step on my yoga mat my body is in a different place.
Edge is a difficult concept to master. Everyone’s edge rests in a different place and once again changes each day. A few ways to know if you’ve moved past your edge is if you find yourself looking around the room to see what everyone else is doing.
If you find yourself holding your breath in a posture, chances are you’ve moved past your edge. A good way to stop yourself from stepping off a cliff is to take what you think a full expression of a posture should look like and cut that in half. More is not equivalent to better.
Recognizing that yoga is meant for more than a good workout opens your eyes to a world of endless possibilities. These yoga principles can be implemented every day to help bring balance to not only your yoga practice but your life as well.
When you have a deeper understanding of what your body needs, not only will you have a better practice, but a better understanding of your mind.