Beginner’s Mind, April 2021
During asana practice, we are not only training the body to do the physical poses, but we are also training the mind to be present. It is the nature of the mind to wander: our attention is easily drawn to sounds, thoughts, memories, and worries. By paying attention to the teacher’s cues, we are bringing the mind into the pose and into the current moment as we learn to straighten a knee, rotate a shoulder or stretch the fingers.
We can also develop focus by coming into our practice with “Beginner’s Mind”, in which we practice noticing things just as they are, without assumptions about our bodies or the poses. We might notice the touch of our feet on the floor, the pattern of each breath, and how the spine changes in each pose. Beginner’s Mind implies an openness to learning and receptivity in body and mind.
You can initiate Beginner’s Mind at the beginning of a practice session by sitting or standing quietly in a tall and spacious position. Relax your jaws and soften your eyes, as though your eyes are going out of focus. Allow your field of vision to widen, so that you’re aware of your peripheral vision rather than the narrow focus we use to read.
This softening of external visual focus allows your inner focus to become clearer, and you can become more aware of sensations of the poses as you practice. As you move from pose to pose, notice whether your mind wanders or becomes judgmental, and pause again to soften your gaze and allow your attention to expand into the pose. Whether beginning or advanced, all yoga students can benefit from practicing Beginner’s Mind.