Tip Tuesday is a weekly feature where I offer a few yoga tips that have worked for me in the hopes that they can help you too.
The other day I had my students practicing crow pose. For most of us, this is a pose that comes in stages before we can balance in the full pose. Everyone was trying so hard and I got very excited when many of them began to “get” the pose. But I noticed a pattern. Anytime the students made progress in the pose, they almost immediately would negate their achievement. I congratulated one student who got the hang of the alignment and managed to get both feet off the ground for a second before falling out. She was happy about it, but added, “Yeah, but I still have so far to go.”
How many times have you degraded your progress in your yoga practice? “I’m not good at this pose.” “Well, I got further today, but I doubt I’ll ever get the whole pose.” “I should have gotten it already.” Or when you land the full pose, “Well, it sure took me forever to finally do it.”
When we diminish our progress we also successfully diminish our desire to keep practicing. When you only look at the balancing pose you fell from, your hands not reaching your toes, and all those poses you should’ve been able to do by now if only you were a better yogi, you’ll dread getting on the mat. Without looking at the wins in your practice, it can just seem like a daunting race where you can’t keep up and eventually want to avoid all together.
However, when you start looking for the successes in your practice, the practice inevitably starts to be more enjoyable. Success is motivating. It gives us hope and the energy to keep trying.
Shifting our perspective to focus on our small wins and celebrating our success is a process of breaking our habitual self-negation. There are ways you can start to make the shift:
Begin to look for your wins. Find the successes, however small, however insignificant you think they are. Perhaps you held an arm balance, even if it was only for a second. Maybe your hip opened up another 1/4 inch. Or that pose that’s usually hard for you felt easier. Take a moment and breath that positive feeling of success into your body.
Focus on one instruction at a time. Instead of thinking of the full pose, focus on each smaller component. “Inhale, lift chest. Exhale, draw tailbone down. Relax the neck.” Taking the pose one cue at a time helps you stay present and get curious about what each component in the pose does for you.
When you do make that quantum leap, celebrate! Rather than lamenting how long it took you to get there, take pride in all the conscious efforts you made again and again to get there. And feel how good it feels when you do pick both feet up and fly.