Training Your Yoga Brain
Yoga is a practice that integrates the mind, body and soul. If you focus on one aspect and ignore the others, you simply won’t receive all the benefits yoga has to offer.Most people understand the physical component, but leave their heart and head out of the picture. If you’re not enjoying your practice in some way, you may be neglecting a certain part of you. While spirituality has a huge place in yoga, that’s not what I’m going to focus on today (that’s another article entirely). I want to shed some light on the mind’s role in making your practice enjoyable and transformative. We often fail to give thought to thought itself.
Next time you hit your mat, can you set an intention to make your thoughts powerful in order to make your practice powerful? Just try it to see how your yoga journey transforms. If I don’t set an intention or at least check in on my thoughts throughout my practice, I quite often get caught up in holding a pose longer,stretching further or breathing more deeply. I start to focus so much on the physical part that I don’t work on inner peace. If I make clearing my mind a priority, I work on that while I’m on my mat as well. You can actually train your brain to empower you while you do yoga. Start by focusing on being present. The moment you focus on where you physically are, and not where you are in your head, you can zoom in on what’s really happening—what’s running through your brain, the sensations you feel, the change that’s taking place. Get present to become aware of your thoughts.
Listen With Compassion
The second step is to listen, without judgment, to the mental tape playing in your head. What are you telling yourself repeatedly? What beliefs do you have about yourself and the world that are showing up on your mat? If, for example, you notice a voice in your head that’s telling you yoga is so hard, dancer’s pose is impossible and you’ll never be flexible, chances are you won’t enjoy your practice that much.When you come into awareness of your thoughts, take a moment to notice how they affect your body. When I catch myself focusing on how challenging a pose is or how much I’m struggling, my movements are stiff, militant and limited. On the other hand, when I tweak my thoughts to focus on how strong I am in side-plank or how unbreakable I feel in crescent lunge, my body shines so bright and my movements are fluid, graceful and powerful.
So, after you tune inwards and listen to your thoughts and the impact they have on your body, you can make adjustments. See if you can flip the picture at all. Can you see the positive instead of the negative, and encourage yourself to be powerful in your own practice? We can be our own cheerleaders. We don’t require a teacher to tell us how strong and powerful we are, although it’s very helpful. We can make the choice to think powerfully and push ourselves to be the best we can be. If you’re at the point where you know a negative thought pattern is hindering your yoga practice, the next step to take is to actively breakdown the habit. The second you notice a limiting belief sneak into your psyche when you’re on our mat (or off it, for that matter) tell yourself it’s a silly lie and replace it with a truth. If you feel you’re too weak to do yoga, create thoughts around how much progress you are making and how strong you will be if you continue to practice. As a dedicated thought trainer, I’ve noticed I catch my negative thoughts much quicker now than I used to and replace them with empowering mantras. Just know that with practice, patience and compassion you can replace your mental tape with a new one, too.
Be Kind To Yourself
Yoga was never created to make people struggle or stress. Its purpose is quite the opposite: to introduce ease and perspective into our lives so we can live happily, healthily and comfortably. Of all the things we cannot control in our world, we can control our thoughts. It takes a little awareness and effort, but it’s well worth it. The yoga studio is a prime spot to test out some brain training, as the lessons you learn on your mat translate to your world off your mat. Be kind to yourself, be in tune with yourself and your yoga practice and life will begin to transform!