cultivating curiousity in your practice

You may be interested to know that one of the reasons yogis look youthful is our ability to sense tension in muscles that people with less body awareness often clench through habituated stress. Do yoga - we have fewer wrinkles… except smile lines! We have lots of those.

New students have easily identifiable tension in their face, and they are more direct and less purposeful with their eyes, even from behind closed eyelids.
When you’re new to yoga or meditation, it’s often anything but calm in your mind. It’s frequently panicked, judgmental, confused, sad or angry. These are base coping mechanisms of our ego that may serve short term survival functions, but long term, keep us from accessing a sense of general calm and compassion in our lives.
Whenever you pursue a new practice, including meditation, the fear/flight/freeze portion of your brain (the amygdala) fires and amplifies your stress reaction, including motivating hormones that make you want to get up and leave. That’s why you may know that something is good for you, but it really doesn’t feel good as you’re doing it.
You’ve probably heard the maxim, “the hardest part is getting started”, and it is so true for yoga and meditation. It is only with time and experience that mental energy diverts from your amygdala to your pre-frontal cortex, a sort of Assessment Centre of your brain. This is where you develop a healthy sense of self as well as a greater sense of empathy and compassion for others.
To reach this stage of mental clarity and calm without getting defeated on the way, you can approach your practice with curiosity. When you experience a reaction in your practice, interrogate it. Why are you angry? Is the practice actually designed to upset you (probably not), or if it is upsetting you, do you have similar experiences with other teachers? Maybe you need a different teacher, but maybe over-the-top anger is your trained reaction that needs re-patterning. Anger isn’t unhealthy when our boundaries are being violated, but when you’re simply frustrated on your yoga mat, it’s a misallocation of your energy.
We can often follow these reactions like this…
I’m angry right now. I’m angry because I feel incapable, and the teacher looks capable, and I’m embarrassed. I don’t like feeling embarrassed, because I already struggle to feel good enough. This experience is not highlighting that I am not good enough. I am good enough – I’m here! I’m doing something that is healthy and kind for myself. This is okay. I am okay.
Curiosity and grace are my two guiding principles. Curiosity allows me to suspend judgment in any given situation, and I consider grace to be the expansion of consciousness in my heart. The more I know about myself, the more gracefully I move through the world with compassion and serenity for myself and others.