2021 brings with it a lot of baggage but also a lot of hope for a better year. A fresh start, even with current challenges, presents an opportunity to take a beginners mindset and go back to basics for your yoga practice and teaching.
Sometimes as a yoga practitioner or yoga teacher we can become consumed by the need to do something new. New poses, original sequencing and unique themes all bring freshness to a yoga practice.
But the bigger value can be found more often when we get back to basics. Here are a few ideas to bring the yoga in your life back to basics.
1. The Poses
As every conscientious yogi will know, Tadasana (mountain pose) is considered the foundation stone for other asanas. It is often the pose we sweep back to in a vinyasa flow sequence but consider how long you actually hold this pose?
Spend time really exploring those poses that are the cornerstones of your own regular practice or teaching. Review those poses you turn to frequently and become curious about every detail of the asana. Make adjustments and use props where necessary to refine the form of the pose. Take one of your regular poses and spend a yoga practice focusing just on that one asana.
Approach it as a beginner and refer to online classes, books and the advice of your teacher (if you can during these Covid times) to really research, study and practice the pose. Make use of your yoga materials to read up on the meaning, benefits and anatomical detail of the pose. ( I really recommend BKS Iyengar’s books – ‘Light on Yoga’ and ‘Path to Holistic Health’ are helpful)
A Better Frame of Mind.
Sometimes when we step on to our mat we are full of the negativity of ‘not in the mood’ for yoga. But we all know that we will always step off the mat in a better frame of mind.
Confront your mood by telling yourself that you will do only one pose. It may well be you only do one pose but there is a reasonable chance you will do another. Remember, any time spent on yoga whether asana or other yoga study is part of the practice – bad mood or good!
3. Reading & Study
Specifically, the Yoga Sutras. If you don’t already have a copy it is a worthwhile investment. The Yoga Sutras is the foundational textbook of our yoga practice. Dip back in to the Sutras. Choose just one Sutra to contemplate. If you are a teacher spend time considering how you can introduce this theme in to your class.
A Beginners Mindset and Go Back to Basics
4. Journaling, Note Taking & Class Planning
By journaling and taking handwritten notes we begin to slow our thinking and become more mindful of our ideas as we write. That physical action of putting pen to paper gives us an opportunity to bring our thoughts, ideas, yoga class planning and study to a quiet moment. Free of the digital distraction of a screen see where the simplicity of just writing takes you.
5. Teaching with a Beginners Mind
Teach a class to your students with a back to basics theme. Really break down the elements of each pose. Dedicate a class to just one or two beginners poses that you practice in depth. Make your verbal clues more direct and simplify your yoga language. Spread the toes. Ground the heels. Engage the thigh muscles. Open the palm. Combine these phrases with clear demonstration during your instruction to the class. Remember that as teachers we are always in a place of constant learning which is why it is called a yoga ‘practice’.
It can be difficult to get a clear perspective on the challenges we are all facing as individuals, communities and a global population. Use your yoga practice to anchor you while you navigate these overwhelming and unpredictable times.