Over the last 6 weeks throughout Yin Yoga we’ve had the mindfulness focus of Satya, (truthfulness).
Truthfulness doesn’t strike most as an obvious focus for a yoga class, and I understand this hesitation, but throughout the month it’s become clear how we can hold back on being honest with ourselves.
During Yin classes I encourage yogis to close their eyes, or keep a very relaxed gaze. This is for two reasons, the first being, it’s easier to relax and keep your focus on you by limiting outside distractions. Closing your eyes, allows you to bring your awareness into how you’re feeling, how you’re breathing, and the posture you’re holding. It also prevents us from looking around the yoga studio at others.
Looking at others while practicing yoga seems harmless enough, but what it can lead to is comparison.
“How come he can do that? He’s only been coming to yoga 3 weeks?”
“She’s so much stronger than I am, I’m so weak.”
“They can hold that postures so effortlessly, I’ll never be able to do that.”
The 3 above statements aren’t unusual thoughts throughout a yoga practice. How do I know? Because sometimes yogis voice these thoughts too.
Now these common opinions are just that, opinions. Based on what? These are judgments we may come up with in a split second with no knowledge of that person, their ability, their yoga history, and their bio-individuality. Therefore what we decide is our opinion of someone’s ability in a certain posture may not be completely true. Someone may look like a posture is effortless, but inside they’re working their absolute hardest. We will never know in at moment, therefore we should not create that judgement.
We can also turn these untruths onto ourselves. Phrases such as ‘I’ll never be able to do that.’ are often followed with the yogi then achieving the posture they never thought they’d do. Why would we lie to ourselves in such a way?
‘I’m so weak.’ is another common misconception. Are you weak? Compared to whom? In what context? You’ve the mental strength and determination to come and practice yoga, that in itself suggests you are not ‘weak’.
The comfort of these little white lies can help us with our own self-esteem. We create an opinion of others to help us feel better about the insecurities that person brings out in us. It takes a lot of practice to reduce these little habits, to allow ourselves to look at a situation or a person with truthfulness rather than judgment.
We can be look at the stories we tell ourselves, drawing on Ahimsa (non-violence), we can look to be kind to ourselves rather than judgemental.
The final non-truth we'll cover today, that we may commit throughout our practice is not listening to our body. Our bodies cannot lie to us. If we need to stop or slow down, we will feel the need to. If we need to work hard, use excess energy or get a good sweat on, our body will tell us.
Within yoga we can allow our ego to take hold. Our ability to do one posture during one practice but then not be able to so well the following practice becomes irritating. Rather than listen to our body we continue to push it perhaps a little further than we should have. This can have negative results, we can end up not enjoying our practice at all, or worse, we could end up injured. At the start of a practice it is always worth taking a moment to listen to your body, withdraw your mind from the outside world and venture in. How are you feeling? From here, you’re able to set your intention for your session. Do we work hard today? Or do we take it easy? Do we test the water and just see how it goes.
Try it now. Close your eyes. How are you feeling?
Alex Howarth, owner of GAIN Mobility, Fitness, Astanga, Hatha and Vinyasa teacher. Lover of meditation and writing. Even if I can't spell.