For those of us who have been practising yoga for many years, at times our practice might feel stagnant and downright boring. If you have ever felt that way, you are not alone. Many people begin to seek innovation when a practice seems dry. Although at times it might be a good idea to take a few days off from our usual practice, or try a new variation of a familiar pose, we can choose to bring ourselves back to Square One.
In Eastern traditions, there is a practice of cultivating the Beginner’s Mind. In many ways, it might well be the antidote to monotony.
What do you do when you feel bored with your yoga practice? If you’re like me, you might naturally try a different variation of an all too familiar pose. You might challenge yourself with a fun new inversion. Those are great options. However, it’s sometimes interesting, though admittedly also unnerving, to let ourselves experience boredom instead of trying to change the situation. This practice often leads to self-reflection. You might ask yourself, “Do I tend to seek novelty or do I prefer to stick with what feels familiar?” “What is my initial reaction to boredom?” “Do I immediately try to change the situation myself or do I turn to something or someone else to help me change the situation?”
There is no way to answer these questions incorrectly. This is simply an opportunity for introspection. However, it’s important to note our reaction to what might come up as we go through this exercise. Sometimes, our reactions themselves can feel challenging. Enter the practice of the Beginner’s Mind.
When we practise cultivating a Beginner’s Mind, we invite ourselves to imagine that we are stepping onto our mat for the very first time. Pretend that you have never practised yoga before, that you are starting with a clean slate. Take a moment to notice how you feel, reserving judgment. Invite yourself to be open to the experience and curious about what may arise. If it’s helpful, try to slow things down and notice how you respond to a different pace. Every time you flow through Sun Salutations or rest in Child’s Pose, stay there with your full intention, inviting all your senses to permeate the experience. Let it guide you, and notice how you feel.
This practice is not meant to be easy, and it’s especially when this practice becomes challenging that we start to understand how much we have yet to learn.
And then, when we feel tired of pretending to be new at something, we can always throw in a funky new arm balance that will challenge us in new ways, again reminding us that yoga is humbling for us all, regardless of how many years of experience we might have. This can help us to remember that behind every impressive arm balance or handstand variation is a strong foundation.
This practice translates into other areas of our lives off the mat and can help us cultivate that same Beginner’s Mind attitude when it comes to our relationships, friendships, jobs, and hobbies. In our fast-paced world, the opportunity to slow down and come back to the basics may feel like a challenge or a privilege. It all depends on our perspective.