Yoga has transformed from a quest to find Samadhi – Union with the Divine – to an even more challenging goal – being the perfect specimen of health and fitness in body and mind.
What are we striving for? If having a great ‘yoga butt and arms’ is the focus, then keep rocking my friend. After you have that perfect yoga body and photograph for your Facebook profile picture, what is next?
No matter what your main drive is for starting or maintaining a yoga practice, I encourage you to incorporate the four steps below next time you find yourself on the mat. I saved the best one for last so don’t let the first few discourage you!
See how it changes your practice and who knows, you might find yourself a little bit closer to Samadhi after all.
1. Chill Out about ‘Perfect Form’ – This is where people freak, but please hear me out! It is always important to have a safe practice, but once you have your foundation set, let go of the small stuff. As long as you feel good in your body, who cares if your hand is up or down? As your practice develops, you will find that perfect alignment of your hips and little tweaks along the way, but take a moment in every pose to come back to your breath vs worrying about your physical body. Ironically, once you go back to the breath and intention, your body will naturally open up, shoulders let go, and it is easier to find the small tweaks that feel best in your unique body.
2. Close Your Eyes – During familiar flows – sun salutations, vinyasa between sequences, and other poses that feel safe and comfortable in your body, play with closing your eyes. First, it stops you from looking at other people in class, thinking ‘wow, I will never look like that…’ or other comparisons. Second, it allows you to go deeper into your practice, becoming aware of the sensations going on inside vs outside.
3. Try Something New AND be OK with Whatever Happens – I am super ‘type A’ and I have a mini inner meltdown every time I attend a class and our peak pose is something I struggle with. Yes, I teach yoga. Yes, there are poses that feel great in my body, and others that I haven’t developed as great of a relationship with. Here is the thing – when we try something new, not worrying about what others think, we can really find some joy in our practice. Understand, we are all human and yoga is a ‘practice’! As long as you approach new poses safely, it is OK to try something, fall/not fall and smile, leaving ego out and inviting joy in.
4. Dedicate Your Practice to Someone/Something - This is the most impactful tool to detach from ego during a yoga practice. Sean Corn, one of the most recognized and influential yoga teachers of our time, refers to this as ‘Body Prayer’. How do you do it? Dedicate your practice to someone, something, or a cause by setting an intention. Hold that intention with every breath, thought, and movement. When your practice is in dedication, you are less likely to become obsessed with details and instead connect more with your greater self - beyond your great butt and arms (that look fantastic by the way). This ultimately connects us to the true essence of our yoga practice –unity.
There you have it! Now go out and give it a try. It doesn’t matter what class you attend, or if you are in your own home practicing alone, use any or all of the four steps above and I guarantee you will not only lose a bit of the ego but you will connect to a deeper part of your yoga practice.
Use your dedication and energy to make a difference in the world - rock on yogis.