photo credit: schwinnbike.com
"You can learn new things at any time in your life if you're willing to be a beginner. If you actually learn to like being a beginner, the whole world opens up to you." - Barbara Sher
On Sunday in YTT, we delved into How to Teach Beginners. A large part of this was to experience our asana practice with a Beginner's Mind. Kia (my mentor) said, in her simple-yet-profoundly-beautiful way, "Think of someone you love who has never practiced yoga. Now practice today as though you were inhabiting their body."
As I've divulged before, I'm a pusher, a perfectionist, a Type-A. This concept of masquerading as a beginner created chaos in my brain. How can I practice like I don't know what I know? Will my ego step aside for two hours while I explore this? Can I trust that I'll take something away from this experience without feeling gypped? Will I think less of myself for being gentle, green, and beginner-esque?
The Universe divinely intervened on my behalf. Sometimes it knows that I need a firm hand to help me soften. Dichotomic, but true. I woke up yesterday before class with the most pain in my neck I've ever felt. My fault, I'm sure. I think I overextended my neck in Pincha. Either way, this neck pain FORCED me to practice like a beginner. It was there to remind me that I couldn't push myself too far. My neck literally wouldn't go back or too far to either side. No delicious full Bhujangasana, no looking at the ceiling in Triko, no uber-bendy Uttanasana. MF, I was really going to have to do this noob-style!
Here's what I took away from my day as a Beginner:
- Beginning bodies (and all bodies for that matter) have limits that should be respected.
- Certain poses advanced practitioners view as simple can be an incredible amount of work when drilled down and explored the way a Beginner would. Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (Bridge)!
- Preparing a class for Beginners and teaching them is much harder than upper level classes/students. It takes an incredibly sophisticated teacher to facilitate and cultivate an excellent introduction to yoga.
- When you settle in to practicing like a Beginner, the mental chatter actually dissipates, shifting to curiosity, empathy, and exploration.
- Props (and their intelligent use) are crucial to making poses accessible for Beginning bodies.
- Yoga teachers have a great, great responsibility when teaching Beginners. You can either introduce someone to the beauty of yoga with a moving experience or chase them off forever with a bad one.
I'm not glad my neck hurts (as I type, I'm currently sporting a Bengay heat patch), but I am thankful that I was able to practice in a new way, to see yoga through different eyes, feel it within another body, and take the journey in a contrasting mind-set.
Do you ever practice like a Beginner? What kind of perspective has it given you?