Yoga: Beginner’s Mind – The Subtle Power of a Yogi, by Parvati Devi
At the heart of a yogi’s practice, we find a developed sense of “beginner’s mind”. This mental attitude and outlook on life supports the profound and rooted power that comes from humility, receptivity and expansion.
Beginner’s mind allows us to be open to possibility, rather than fixed on ideas of what we think this moment should be. It allows us to be in “non-resistance to what is”, rather than projecting our will onto the world.
In Hatha Yoga (the physical practice of yoga), an attitude of beginner’s mind is key. One could say that it allows the practice to flower effortlessly. With a sense of humble “not-knowing”, we evolve from what potentially first drew us to Hatha Yoga, such as, a desire for physical exercises and overall health, to the state of yoga, that is, oneness with all that is. This happens because with a beginner’s mind, we open ourselves to this moment, to the fullness of life as it is here and now.
Yet, not only does the attitude of beginner’s mind fuel our yoga practice, the very practice of Hatha Yoga itself can teach us to cultivate a beginner’s mind. Breath awareness exercises, and subtle attention to the energy that flows through the body/being, help us let go of habitual thoughts and experience what is with a sense of freshness. The downward dog, that we have done already ten times only halfway through a yoga class, becomes entirely new and full of possibility each time we do it. We learn to see not only ourselves with newness while on our mat, we learn to take this practice from the mat out into the world and welcome life.
The body is like both a classroom and schoolyard, where we can play and learn. It is also like our office, where we do the work necessary to evolve on this job called life. Time is carved by routines, such as by the end of summer and going back to work or school. Learning from our yoga practice, we begin to see newness each time we come to what seems like the same.
“Re-turning” is “turning again”, that is, visiting once more. When we return, we have an opportunity to see life differently. Just as a yogi would circumambulate a temple in prayer, through yoga, we learn to go around and around seemingly similar things, ideally with mindfulness and reverence, to eventually find the divine.
With a beginner’s mind, the dullness of habit breaks open to a field of possibilities. We notice that the unpleasant task of doing dishes is in fact full of sensory delight and potential fun. We had never noticed the pleasant warmth of the water on our skin, or the sweet fragrance of the soap. As we settle in, our heart and mind expand and we find a new kind of joy.
Small children, who see life with wonder, have a beginner’s mind. A bug on the ground, an odd coloured speck of paint on the wall, sparkles on a new pair of shoes, the peeling sticker on a mailbox – are each an entire universe full of mystery. A beginner’s mind frees us to experience the joy of this life and meet it with full technicolour and possibility.
When you return to school or work this season, see if you can approach your life with a yogic attitude, one that you cultivate on your mat. See if the “sitting at my desk opening bills again” is like just another yoga pose. You have done it before. It could be dull and unpleasant, or it could be new and unknown. You never know what contents a new letter holds. Remain open.
Rather than resisting routine, re-turn: turn your mind inward to this moment as it is and free yourself of the external story overlaid onto it. By cultivating a beginner’s mind, your yoga practice and life itself will be more fun and fulfilling. You will find where there once were duty and chores, true joy flowers.
Parvati Devi is the editor-in-chief of Parvati Magazine. In addition to being an internationally acclaimed Canadian singer, songwriter, producer and performer, she is a yoga teacher and holistic educator, having studied yoga and meditation since 1987, and developed her own yoga teaching style called YEM™: Yoga as Energy Medicine. Her current shows, “YIN: Yoga in the Nightclub” and “Natamba”, bring forward a conscious energy into the pop mainstream.