I can’t believe how many years I have been on my mat. Not that every year was a I-roll-out-my-mat-5-days-a-week kind of year.
Over the years, my practice has grown and shrunk, had breakthroughs, and back steps, and is ever changing, as I do the continual cha-cha of two steps forward and one step back.
Becoming a yoga instructor has helped my practice grow in a tremendous way, as I make realizations about how I approach each breath on my mat and help others do the same. If you want to learn more about anything – teach it.
Each week my students humbly approach me before class to confess their physical and emotional pitfalls they are facing this week and how it might affect their practice session.
“Just don’t expect too much today, okay?” is a phrase I actually hear more than you think, as I greet my students.
Yogis, I’m not keeping score as we move from posture to posture, but I do expect your best. You showed up for a reason. I am glad you talked to me and let me know what is going on with you, but other than that, you show up on your mat and do what you can.
Some days will be glorious, full of achievements you could only have dreamed of a month or a year before, other days… you will feel humbled by the yoga, maybe even defeated. Yet, the only thing that matters is that you showed up for your Self and that you show up again.
That being said, there are a few things that might be getting in the way of your progress within the confines of your practice that you should consider. I’ve been through them all and still find that I have to face one or two of these, as I work to go deeper and achieve more physically and mentally through this yoga journey. Maybe you, too, will identify with one, two, or all of these:
1. Physical Limitations.
This is not to be taken lightly. You have had knee surgery or tore your rotator cuff. It could be something more, it could be something less. It doesn’t matter what the injury is. You will need to be extremely patient with yourself and with your body. You have an opportunity to heal through the yoga practice, but it might take longer than you want it to. The time will pass anyway. Continue to get on your mat and watch the body unfold.
2. A shared thought or belief.
Someone told you something about yourself and you chose to believe it. You are too tall, too big, too weak, your legs are too long, your legs are too short, your arms are too short. You will never heal from your injury – it is there and never going away, so deal with it. I have heard it all. I actually have had students back away from a posture because another teacher, friend, or relative had told them they were bad at it. What beliefs about yourself can you delete? Are they even your beliefs to begin with?
3. A teacher that puts limits on your practice.
I have had a teacher tell me that something I was working for was never going to happen for me. They were more than likely trying to be helpful in some way, but don’t let anyone tell you what is possible within your practice. They don’t know what’s possible for you any more than you do.
4. You think you know better.
This was me in so many ways at the beginning of my practice. I wish I had pictures of the craziness that I brought to my practice at that time because I refused to follow directions. I was a dancer, a runner, an athlete in many ways and knew my body well. I meditated every day. Yet, I wasn’t open enough to learn something new. I had to let go of my need to be right and my know-it-all manner in order to move forward. I had to empty my cup and come at the practice as if I was an absolute beginner, which is a state of mind that serves me well to this day.
5. You are scared of change.
People like their stuff. They like their drama and their excuses. If things were peaceful and calm and you were actually joyful, you wouldn’t know what to do with yourself. I am here to tell you change is awesome. You won’t know how awesome until you decide that your stuff is boring. Trust me it’s boring. Change is exciting.
6. You don’t want people to think you are better than them.
If you are happy, healthy, calm, peaceful, working towards positive goals, who would like you? I’ll tell you who. The best kind of people. The good, supportive, you-can-do-it kind of people. You were meant to shine. Don’t dull your sparkle to make other people comfortable you.
7. You think unless everything went perfectly, the practice was unsuccessful.
The best practice session is the one you show up for – period. It doesn’t matter if you had to take a break or if you fell out of a posture. You are seeking progress by showing up again and again and believing that it will change for the better and grow.
8. You compare your practice to those around you or the people you follow on social media.
Be your Self. There is only one you and your practice is just as relevant and important as the person wrapping their leg behind their head or pictured doing a one-armed handstand. Enjoy your own journey and don’t get caught up in someone else’s unless they inspire you as to what is also possible for you.
9. Not assessing as to why a certain outcome keeps happening.
You fall out of Dancer Pose every single day. You have zero energy left by Camel Pose and skip it every single time. Your stomach yelled at you through the whole practice because you ate the wrong thing before class or you didn’t eat at all and this happens at least once a week. You are in control more than you think. Start figuring out what is going on with that posture that eludes you. Talk to your teachers to get the answers to your questions. Go to a posture clinic, workshop, or seminar to learn more. Make sure you are feeding your body what it needs. Up your electrolytes. Spray yourself down with Magnesium Oil before bed. Take Epsom salt baths. Start eating good food that doesn’t exacerbate your system. Assess why certain things are happening and decide to make the change you need to get past this hurdle.
10. Taking it way too seriously.
It’s just yoga, people. I know we show up on our mat sometimes for very serious reasons – health problems, working through emotional problems, reducing anxiety, etc. – but that doesn’t mean you aren’t allowed to have a bit of fun. If you fall out of posture, it’s better to laugh it off and begin again, than silently swearing and berating yourself. I always tell my students that the way you treat your yoga is the way you treat your life. If everything is so serious, where’s the fun? The journey can be hard and arduous, or a true joy, as you learn how to enjoy every step of the way and watch yourself grow in so many different ways. Lighten up. You don’t have to be perfect. You simply have to be the perfect expression of everything you are in that moment.
As you look at the list above you might find that these things are not only holding you back from moving forward with your yoga, but also holding you back from moving forward with your life. It’s easy to hang out in the comfort zone, but that is not where life is lived. Life is lived one daring moment at a time as you reach for new goals and bust down the walls of what holds you back from the life you actually want.
Tori Hicks-Glogowski is a yoga instructor and yoga business coach and mentor for yoga teachers. She is the author of the book, "Views from the Podium: The Life & Times of a Hot Yogi," and has been writing and sharing her yoga experience for the past seven years. Find out more about Tori now.