Taking a beginner’s brain to yoga class

I was talking over dinner last week with a friend who’s new to yoga. I rather provocatively asked her what yoga was for her right now. I was curious to know. I’ve been trying to define my yoga for myself since I started and some of my earlier notions now strike me as surprisingly naive. Not something I should feel shy about — it’s just an evolution in understanding and experiences gained. So what’s her yoga? Her answer was funny and endearing, and also rather humbling. She didn’t even try to put it into words. She just jumbled her hands around in front of her to indicate a ball of messiness and then with one finger sketched a circle above her head. “And there’s the sun”, she said.

beginner brainHuh, I guess it’s still like that for me too: loads of confusing weird stuff going on but with a sense of good-ness radiating down on it all. But while I still grab compulsively at all the loose ends I can see, wanting to tease them apart and seeing what’s at the centre, she’s far more relaxed and less grasping, more patient in her evolution. If that’s a beginner brain, then it’s certainly a model to follow.

We hatched a plan for her to come to class with me on one of the free passes my studio has kindly given me. I know she was nervous, I know this was out of her comfort zone. She likes to be in control and to deliver perfection — and neither of these things happen in a new yoga class. But yoga’s already working its magic on her and she is embracing the unfolding nature of the experience without trying to force it or hurry it. I know this isn’t her natural way and I’m more than a little blown away by it. I have to make this a conscious attitude in all aspects of my practice. “Sloooowww down, babycrow” — this should be my mantra!

We went our separate ways in the studio. I tucked her into the back row where she could see what was going on and I boldly put myself in the front row where I could let my gaze sink into the wall rather than be distracted by other moving bodies. My thoughts strayed to her during class from time to time, wondering how she was going, but if I was happy to lecture her before class about there being no need for nervousness or pressure on performance, I had then to try to embody that in my own practice!

We were too much in that post-yoga quiet state to chat much after class. We had practiced, and we were both smiling at the end of it. That’s all that mattered. She might be storing up some questions for me later, once she’s processed the experience: beginner’s brain or not, we both think too much! But in that moment, just doing it and sharing it was enough.

image source: http://www.usgo.org/news/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/2014.02.06_brain-fitness-2.jpg.

2 thoughts on “Taking a beginner’s brain to yoga class

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    1. I don’t want to come over all Classical on you, but I’ve always found the word ‘experience’ really interesting in the way people apply it to yoga, meditation etc. The original Latin word has connotations of testing (our ‘experiment’) as well as more obviously undertaking something oneself. For me this is also really important in yoga, to ‘test’ what others tell you and see how it fits in your own mindbody

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