BY: TRISHA CURLING
Some of the first things that come to mind when thinking about what to bring to our yoga class are pretty easy. It’s a good idea to be prepared by bringing our own mat, some water and maybe a small towel. We definitely want to wear appropriate clothing, for women a sports bra and a comfortable pair of yoga pants and top. For men, a comfortable pair of yoga/athletic shorts or pants and top. Sounds like common sense, right? Yes, pretty much. Although all of these things are definitely important to consider when getting ready for class, one of the more, if not most important things to bring is our attitude. By attitude I mean the right one.
Yoga is so much more than asana (poses). The right attitude can determine not only our yoga practice for that day, but the lifetime of our practice. Going to a class with other participants is a wonderful shared experience. Even going to a private yoga session with a teacher can be viewed as a shared experience. However, yoga is also extremely personal, even in a setting like those. Listening to our bodies, and letting go are important keys to bring with us to class. Yes, the external materials are important, but the internal materials are arguably more important.
Whether we are beginners or long time students of yoga, listening to our bodies is essential. It doesn’t do us any good to approach a class by thinking that we’re going to “crush it”, or “nail every pose”. It may also seem like everyone else around us is “nailing it”, but there are several reasons why a particular type of breathing or posture is not for us on a given day, or ever for that matter. When I first started, I had a number of injuries I was learning to manage. I had shoulder, knee and back issues. It was important to keep myself safe and not let ego play a role in my experience on the mat. A good teacher will guide us safely, but we are ultimately responsible for our own wellbeing. I had to know when to back off and/or when to take a modification provided by the teacher. If we listen to our bodies, we can have a safe and effective practice. Understanding that we are all different and that just because someone can put their legs behind their head, doesn’t mean that we are less because we cannot. That is not what yoga is about. Yoga definitely teaches us patience and it really allows us to get to know our own bodies, internal and external.
Letting go can be quite a loaded concept in class. Our daily lives are so crammed with responsibilities for work and family, often leaving our own needs last. When we step on the mat, it’s important to let all of those things go and become completely immersed in what we are doing and feeling. Being more mindful, present, and in tune with your breathing can help to not only reduce tension in our bodies, but to significantly reduce tension in our minds. The focus required has the ability to take us away from all of those other things. If it doesn’t take us away, let that go too.
The beautiful thing that starts to happen when we listen to ourselves and let go of some of the mind chatter when we are in class is that we begin to take these things with us when we are off the mat. It translates into our daily lives, making us more mindful and giving us the focus we need to complete tasks with more ease and patience.