The Importance of Attitude & Yoga Practice

1 May 2013

Attitude applies to the way we express or “carry” ourselves. How interesting that it is derived from the Latin word for ‘fit’, and from the French word “attitudine” which means “position” or “posture”. How ‘fitting’ this word is for Yoga practice, because in yoga (as in life), much of a person’s attitude is carried in their posture.

A good teacher can easily encourage students to adapt a positive attitude. From a Yoga perspective, proper attitude is established by observing the yamas (the do-nots) and the niyamas (the dos) from Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras’ “Eight-Fold Path”. These observances lead students towards a non-harming, non-grasping, focused Yoga practice and harmonious lifestyle. One of the main things that yoga students need to be reminded of is that a posture (asana) is not about perfect results but about total effort. Remaining in touch with your body while putting in the right amount of effort so that each asana challenges you, while at the same time, respects your needs and avoids the risk of injury is the key attitude to developing a balanced practice.

Equally importantly in a Yoga class is the teacher’s attitude, because this sets the tone and the pace for the entire session.  When teachers realize that the way they carry themselves is the first thing students will notice as they come into the studio, then their body language can be a simple yet powerful tool that will create an atmosphere of trust and confidence for their students.

A teacher’s attitude is mostly a reflection of their history and personal approach to Yoga; is their attitude serious or playful, strict or accommodating, or is it somewhere in between? Quite possibly, the most important thing for a teacher to consider is whether or not they are acting according to the basic principles of Yoga. Beware of teachers that are teaching from their ego; ask yourself, are they seeking acclaim or admiration from their students? The best, most effective and respected teachers instruct in a way that knowledge can be channeled through you, without insisting you imitate them.

The Importance of Attitude & Yoga PracticeDevelop “Yogatude”, a yoga attitude…

One of the most important factors in your practice of yoga is not about your physical alignment but your mental alignment…your “yogatude”. A well aligned yogatude demands a high degree of acceptance and humility. These are traits that can be difficult to cultivate in the social setting of a class. For many students it’s easy to be hard on themselves if they’re the only one who can’t do a pose properly, or to beat themselves up if they’re the one needing the most props to do it. It’s also easy to be tempted into indulging feelings of superiority when you’re able to go deeper into a pose than anyone else.

A useful approach is to be nonjudgmental about yourself and/or others and to nurture one of the best attitudes you can possibly cultivate: a “beginner’s mind.” Engage every pose as if it were for your first time, exploring new ways to stand, breathe, and move about. Adapting a beginner’s attitude is an awesome way to “connect” with any asana and keep your yoga practice fresh and exciting, regardless of how many times you have done the same pose.

Final thought… “Suppose somebody looks at you and says, ‘Hey, how come you seem to be super happy today?’ What does that person see? Does the person see your mind? How does he or she know that you are happy? It shows in your body. That means the happiness of the mind immediately is reflected in the body. That is the proof. The same way, if you are unhappy you may be asked, ‘What’s wrong with you? You don’t seem to be happy today.’ So that means every mood immediately gets reflected in the body. Every thought has a say over every molecule of the body. Even though we see the change more visibly in the face, that doesn’t mean other parts of the body are not changed. From head to foot you change. There’s no doubt about it. That is the power of mind.” ~Sri Swami Satchidananda

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