Sunday, October 18, 2009

"Beginner's mind" vs. "Prideful mind" -- A tip for being a successful yoga student

Recently I had three visitors attend my more experienced level class.   Two were less experienced than my regular students in that class.   The third was quite accomplished -- strong and flexible, showing off her beautiful and remarkable poses, carrying them further than anyone else in the class, adding various flourishes and periodically "doing her own cool thing" in between the poses I was teaching.

All three were delightful people and I was happy to have them in class that evening.    But who was being a "good" student?   Which kind of student is overall more successful? 

You don't have to be strong or flexible, or have beautiful poses to be a successful or "good" student -- just the willingness to learn and practice what the teacher has to offer during that particular class.  I'm not familiar with other styles of yoga and the accompanying teaching methods -- perhaps it is acceptable in some other classes "do your own thing" when you think you can do more than what is being shown and taught in class.   But part of the philosophy of the Iyengar tradition (and most likely many other yoga traditions) is to develop patience and discipline and a degree of humility.   Of course we can be proud of our accomplishments and of our beautiful poses, but pride can lead us to believe we know more than we really do, or are better than we really are.   This leaves no room for learning.    And there is always more to learn.

If there's no patience, discipline, and humility, then that student has already decided (even if unconsciously) that she has nothing to learn from this class.   So basically that student has come to class for a work-out (and possibly to show off).   That's not necessarily bad, but she misses out on the wonderful experience of learning something new.

In the following Yoga Journal entry --
Yoga Journal - Teacher Tells All - Yoga Blog
the writer/teacher describes "Beginner's Mind" in yoga as "that space where you examine everything as if it were new. By opening ourselves up to the possibility that there is always something new to learn (even when you have done the "same" downward facing dog a thousand times) all kinds of things can shift and change and evolve."

If we already think we "know it all", we can learn nothing.   When we look at the poses afresh each time we do them, they become endlessly fascinating and satisfying.

(Yoga Journal entry posted using ShareThis)

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