1. You’re capable of more than you realize. I see that look on your face when we do Crow or Handstand (or whatever) and I know the feeling. I’m here to tell you that with some effort, patience, and willingness, you will exceed your own expectations in practice. Yes, it does take some time to build the strength and/or flexibility that a lot of poses require, but the mental piece is just as important. That voice that tells you ‘I’ll never be able to do that’ —don’t listen! An open mind and a willingness to try will take you far. Oh, and this is probably true for your life off the mat too.
2. You can learn to relax. Maybe you’ve had the thought in Savasana—‘I’m the only one who isn’t relaxing/isn’t doing this right/etc.’ No worries. The ability to relax is a skill that takes time to develop. Yoga helps, breathing exercises help, meditation helps, working with your self-talk helps. Stick with it. Just because you didn’t relax today in Savasana or yesterday at the grocery store doesn’t mean you can’t.
3. Forget about trying to be perfect. There is no one right way to do a pose, and no finish line. If you ask ten different yoga teachers about a point of alignment, you may get ten different answers. Listen to what everyone has to say, and find what works best for your body. Likewise, there are no ‘shoulds’ in yoga, and no perfect poses. There’s always room for progress somewhere.
4. Practice, practice, practice. Or to quote Pattabhi Jois, “practice, and all is coming.” You’ll get a lot more out of your practice if you do it at least three times a week—particularly if you want to build strength. Consistency is the mother of mastery.
5. There’s a time to press on, and a time to pull back. Sure, it’s good to practice a lot and challenge yourself, but also give yourself plenty of time to rest. You don’t have to do a physically exhausting practice every day. Try to fit in a restorative or Yin practice once a week or so, and don’t feel guilty about taking a day off. Your body and mind will thank you.
6. There is no ‘bad’ practice. Don’t get down on yourself because you couldn’t get into that arm balance today, or because your heart wasn’t in it. Some days are just like that, and it’s all grist for the mill. Maybe you can reflect on what was going on and learn something from it, or maybe not. In the end, not every practice really has to be stellar. Showing up counts.
7. Remember to be kind to yourself. We bring all of our personality traits to the mat so if you tend to be self-critical or perfectionistic, it will show up in your practice. Think of your practice as a laboratory to try out new things—including self-kindness. If this is hard to relate to, think of how you might encourage a good friend or child in their practice. Can you bring that same sort of encouragement and kindness to yourself?
8. When you come to class, you are supporting your community. Your presence, your efforts and your practice support the others in the class, and enhance their practice. You may not realize that you inspire someone, or that they enjoy your presence in class.
9. I’m a student too! I don’t know it all, I can’t do all the big poses either, I struggle and I’m learning just like you. I’m just fortunate to be able to share what I learn with you, and I hope it’s helpful.
10. I appreciate you. I know you don’t have to come to my class, and I’m so happy and appreciative when you do. Also, I learn from you, I’m inspired by you, and I appreciate your feedback. You make me a better teacher, so thank you.