Updated: Jan 16
Working towards an advanced yoga pose can be fun and encourage us to practice consistently.
What counts as an advanced yoga pose is something that you find physically, mentally and/or emotionally challenging. These yoga poses that you currently find hard could vary over time, and certainly will be different when compared to other people.
In this blog we’ll be exploring exactly how our mindset influences practicing advanced yoga poses.
Using consistent practice to explore an advanced yoga pose
In the Ashtanga Mysore tradition, the teacher will guide you through a specific sequence of poses.
Each time you reach a challenging yoga pose, the teacher will stop you at that pose to allow you to focus on practicing one difficult yoga pose at a time.
Each day you practice you will be encouraged to keep practicing the sequence up to this difficult pose.
Practitioners can end up stopping for long periods—weeks, months or years—at the same place in the sequence to focus on this one posture.
This allows the practitioner to explore the physical, mental and emotional intricacies related to the specifically challenging yoga pose.
To begin with it can be very easy to get caught up on the physical aspects of approaching a challenging posture.
When practicing yoga regularly it becomes possible to physically feel on a subtle and specific level which areas of the body lack the necessary flexibility or strength to approach a specific advanced yoga pose.
Then over a period of time of consistent, focused practice you might start to notice that the body begins to adapt, becoming stronger or more flexible in order to approach the advanced yoga pose.
But what about what’s happening invisibly in our internal mindset during our yoga practice?
How our mindset can affect our physical yoga practice
Before attempting a challenging yoga pose, it’s useful to first learn how to do similar physical actions with the body in simpler postures.
For example, developing first the ability engage the arms and abdomen, and open the shoulders in different simple postures, will make it easier to put the required actions together when attempting the Headstand (Sirsasana).
Our ability to practice Sirsasana will be limited if we aren't able to activate and lengthen the required physical areas of the body. However, often we tend to underestimate the role of how our mindset influences practicing advanced yoga poses.
It might be the case that we—along with many others— have a lot of fear about attempting to balance upside down on our head and falling over.
If this emotion and related thought patterns are prominent, it might have a larger affect on our ability to do Sirsasana, rather than the challenging physical aspects.
As someone that has focused for many years on the physical side of alignment and technique, it took me some time to really become aware of the large influence a negative mindset can have when approaching certain advanced yoga.
I therefore think it's essential to bring attention to your internal mindset during your yoga practice—no matter if you’re practicing advanced yoga poses or a sequence of poses that you feel very comfortable with.
Observing your internal mindset when practicing advanced yoga poses
The process of learning a difficult yoga pose can give you insights into your internal dialogue and attitude towards yourself. It can be interesting to observe how we internally react when we attempt a yoga pose that we can’t yet do.
In addition to focusing on how your body and breath feels before, during and after your yoga practice, bring awareness also to your mindset. Notice how you’re reacting as you approach advanced poses by seeing which of the below thoughts resonate with you.
Do you feel overwhelmed with emotions like fear or anxiety? Are you forcing your body into a position that feels unaccepting to where your body is today?
Is it frustrating when you find a particular yoga pose more challenging today compared to last time you practiced? Are you comparing yourself to others? Do you feel jealous of others that are able to do the advanced pose?
Remember all of your observations about your mindset are part of the practice!
Just because we’ve been practicing yoga for some time it doesn’t mean that we’ve got everything figured out. By getting more familiar with our internal reactions we can learn to be happy with the process of learning a pose, rather than the ability to do the pose itself.
This doesn’t mean that we should try to push negative thoughts away. Rather we can learn how to observe and allow our positive, neutral and negative thoughts to be there.
Without trying to hold onto our positive thoughts, let go of negative thoughts, and pay no attention to neutral thoughts.
Learning to cultivate kindness to your yoga practice
If you start to practice cultivating a non-striving and accepting attitude to your yoga practice you will likely find that your internal dialogue starts to change.
Slowly you find you are able to respect the signals your body is giving you of where you can comfortably work and be during your practice.
You begin to allow the process of learning a new yoga pose to unfold, without a fixed idea of what you want to achieve. You are able to let go of any sense of striving and be happy where you are in this moment.
Accepting that each body is different, and that your journey in yoga will be different to others.
Putting your positive mindset into practice
Now comes the hard part—putting it into practice on a regular basis. You could start by setting an intention before each yoga practice of putting your positive mindset into practice.
If there is one particular thought or feeling that you notice comes up for you regularly focus on that one for a period of time.
For example, if a common feeling that comes up for you is frustration when practicing advanced yoga poses, try cultivating an intention of acceptance to yourself during your practice.
Keep reminding yourself to tune into your thoughts, feelings and emotions during your yoga practice on a regular basis and notice how these might start to change and evolve over time.
Enjoy your practice!
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