Yoga is a lot of work. A lot of work. It’s actually hilarious how much work yoga can be and still be the most relaxing thing in the world. Here is what to remind yourself when the yoga going gets tough:
1. The hardest part is showing up. Remind yourself, even if you have to do it every single day, that the hardest part is merely to begin. Take a minute, take a deep breath, and step onto the mat. There. You just did the hardest part. I know that physically yoga is very challenging, and some of you may be thinking, “Um, I’m pretty sure the crow pose is the hardest part…” and there is a certain truth to that. But when you really think about it, the mental challenge of allowing yourself time to do something beneficial for yourself, or to just get out of bed and begin a physical activity, are the most challenging part of any physical regimen. So when you step onto the mat, congratulate yourself for getting the hardest part out of the way.
2. Be patient, baby steps. When I first started doing yoga, nearly a decade ago, I saw pictures of people standing on their heads or pushing their entire body weight onto their arms. I thought, “I will be able to do that one day.” Actually, I fell out of yoga and am just getting back into it, and I still can’t do those poses. But that doesn’t matter now. I’ve realized that forcing that goal on myself gave me the wrong expectations for what the practice would do for me, and I got frustrated and upset. By getting impatient that I couldn’t stand on my head, I let myself get fed up and robbed myself of years of physical and mental benefits. It’s not about becoming a full blown yogi as fast as you can. If you have to start at the beginner level, then start there. If you have to stay a beginner for a while, stay a beginner! Be patient with yourself and your body.
3. The unity of your mind, body and spirit is the most important thing. If you’re turning to yoga because you want to be more flexible, it should work out for you. If you’re turning to yoga because you want to lose weight, that could work too! But if you ever want to be truly great at yoga, you need to let all of that go and focus on the real point of the practice. Which is, to unify your mind, body and spirit through the movements and the breath and calming your mind. That’s a pretty lofty goal, but if you take it seriously, it’s actually far more attainable (albeit in a possibly moment by moment basis), than the goals that you may set by doing yoga for more superficial reasons.