I read Leo Babuta's article on Zen Habits, The Lies Your Mind Tells You to Prevent Life Changes, and immediately recognized how they applied to yoga.
The Yogis always recognized that, in order to realize our true potential, the mind had to be silenced.
Yoga is the cessation of the fluctuations of the mind- Yoga Sutras of Patanjali
The mind is in the business of preserving its stories and being comfortable. When anything challenges its core beliefs or makes it uncomfortable, it starts to come up with excuses to keep change from occurring and to stay in the comfort zone. Here are the lies your mind tells you and how they directly apply to yoga.
I can't do it
Of course not. That is why you are going to class. To learn how to do it.
He/She can do it but it does not apply to me
"She can do the pose because she has open hips and I don't". "He was a gymnast". "I have short arms". "That practice is not meant for me." Kino Macgregor, an Ashtanga teacher who travels all around the world working with different bodies, addressed this beautifully in the video below. She explains that, for every person who has said that they could not do a yoga pose because of a physical limitation, she has met someone with the same body type or limitation that has accomplished it. Instead of using the limitation as an excuse to not try, use it as an excuse to innovate. Figure out how to do the pose safely in spite of the perceived limitation. Play with different entries, props,movements and opening of the body that may give you access. Find a new approach and have faith.
I need my___
I need my coffee. I need a teacher. I need my sugar. I struggled many years because I convinced myself that I could not get better at my Ashtanga practice without a teacher. My mind was looking for an excuse to give up because I was practicing by myself and it was tough. It was not true. All we need to practice yoga is the breath and a willingness to get on the mat.
Yoga is supposed to be fun
The Yoga Sutras talks about the five Kleshas. The Kleshas are like layers of dirt on a mirror that keep us from being able to see clearly. The Five Kleshas are:
- Avidya-ignorance or ignoring of the truth
- Asmita = identification with body and mind
- Raga = addiction
- Dvesha = aversion or pushing away,
- Abhinivesha = resistance to loss, fear of death of identity, desire for continuity, clinging to the life of
Yes, our lives should be fun and having fun while practicing yoga is not bad within itself. However yoga seeks to teach us that our happiness should be unconditional and not tied to any person, place, thing or action. When we push away, dvesha, because of fear of lose of happiness, abhinivesha, our happiness is conditional. In order for yoga to teach us about finding lasting happiness, it puts us in situations that are not fun so we can practice it.
We are trying to learn as, Ledisi says, that is is going to be alright.
I need comfort
Many people use the verse from the Sutras,
Asana is a steady comfortable posture-Yoga Sutras of Patanjali 2:46
to justify only doing poses that come easy for them. However, Yoga is about being comfortable mentally and physically in ANY seat. It is about stilling the mind in any situation not just the ones we are comfortable in. It is not just a physical comfort, it is an internal comfort. So to figure out if we can be internally comfortable in any situation, the yoga poses themselves must sometimes be uncomfortable.
I don't know how
Yep, that is why you go to class.
I can do it later
The time is now. There is always going to be something going on in your life. Yoga is about staying balanced in any situation. You can't learn that lesson if you never go to yoga! There is no guarantee that tomorrow is going to be any different. Do it now.
One time won't hurt
I always plan my practice days and my days off at the beginning of the week and stick to it. Whenever, I have tried to just fit it in or finish my "to do" list and then practice, my practice slowly starts to fade away because there will always be something going on. It is best to practice in spite of what is going on in your life. Make it a priority.
Doing it when you don't feel like it prepares you for when you do. If you put off doing Wheel pose,until you feel like it, when you actually feel like doing it, you won't be able to because your back will be stiff and tight. You can not have the great practices without the off practices.
Practicing, only when you feel like it, prevents you from every mastering yoga. You will always just be okay at it. If that is okay with you than just practice when you feel like it. If you want to one day practice with ease in all poses and find that steady comfortable seat, you have to do it even when you don't feel like it.
Your yoga practice can give you energy. Get on your mat but be mindful and aware and see what happens. When I was a home practitioner and I was tired, I would do 3 Sun A's and 3 Sun Bs, if I was still tired, I would rest. However, 90% of the time the Sun Salutes woke me up and I kept going. In a public class, I take it slow, use modifications and rest when I need it.
After practice, I take a look at my life and see what is making me tired and fix it.
Yes, sometimes we do. However, keep in mind that the benefits of the practice are the reward. You deserve the calm, peace, good health and steady mind that comes from the practice.
Wouldn't it be nice to stop?
This is an excuse from the mind to run away from the discomfort. The demons of dvesha (avoidance) and Abhinivesha (fear of change and being uncomfortable with change) are coming to get you. Don't let them.
The result you are going for is not important
Sometimes we lose our way. When what we originally wanted starts to look unattainable, we belittle its importance in our practice. "It is not necessary for me to do handstand so there is no need to try". It is never about the pose. It is about the process and what the pose teaches you. Maybe you will be able to do it and maybe you wont. What did you learn along the way?
This is the underlying reason for most of our excuses.
"I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear."-Nelson Mandela