“What we think determines what happens to us, so if we want to change our lives, we need to stretch our minds.” Dr Wayne Dyer
So, you’re at yoga class and the teacher demonstrates a new pose you haven’t done before. Let’s say it’s Bow Pose. Let’s say you’re feeling a bit stiff in the lower back and shoulders. You look at the pose the teacher is showing you and you tell yourself “woah, hang on a minute, I’m never going to be able to do that!”.
Or perhaps you’re at work and you’re asked to present to a large group of people – the mere idea of standing up in front of 20+ strangers brings you out in a cold sweat.
Or maybe your son has asked you to look after your baby grandchild for the very first time – and you’re worried that you won’t be able to cope and something might go wrong.
It’s so easy to worry and expect the worst; to underestimate what we’re capable of.
I’ve come to believe that you make your own reality. And if you see things negatively, that’s likely how they’ll be…
I can’t do that!
If you attempt a yoga pose with the thought “I can’t do this” then your body will tense up so you’re not likely to do it easily, reinforcing your lack of confidence.
If you approach that presentation with fear, your breathing will be shallow and tight; reinforcing your anxiety and you may not project your voice – or a sense of confidence – very well.
If you expect things to go wrong looking after your grandchild then you’re more likely to over-react to the slightest unexpected thing and you’ll miss out on the potential joy of looking after your grandchild for the first time.
Choose to think “yes”
However, if you choose to learn and approach things positively – and it is a choice – then you’re more likely to have a positive experience.
I’m not saying Bow Pose will be easy, but if you try it with an open mind, in a spirit of curiosity about how your body moves and feels then you’re more likely to get something out of it.
Approaching our yoga practice with this curiosity can help us to challenge our mind’s notions of what we’re capable of. It can help us to accept our body how it is. It can help us to be gentle with ourselves. It can help us to live in the present moment and not in fear of what might happen.
In this way, we can learn to stretch our minds.
And we can take that curiosity, acceptance and gentleness into our life every day.
When I started yoga I couldn’t touch my toes, I found breathing deeply difficult, and relaxing a real challenge. I frequently told myself I couldn’t do this or that. And that spread into all areas of my life. Anxiety became my default position.
But something kept me coming back to yoga and I slowly began to stretch; to loosen; to let in the idea that maybe I could try something new – I could move out of my comfort zone. That I had unique talents and a contribution to make and that only my mind was holding me back from doing whatever I wanted to.
Through my yoga practice I’ve learned to stretch myself. I can touch my toes – yay! But also I’ve met my soul mate (leap of faith there was trying internet dating), I’ve moved around the country, I’ve made new friends, found new jobs, I’ve trained to be a yoga teacher, I’ve given up full-time work, I’ve started up yoga classes from scratch. And I’m fizzing with ideas for new ways to spread the beautiful power of yoga.
I have faith in myself that I can do this. I’m not saying there won’t be challenges along the way but I trust that whatever happens will be fine.
Because living our life is like an act of faith. We don’t know what’s going to happen in the future, and, if we’re honest we can’t control lots of aspects of our lives – and we certainly can’t control other people!
By learning to be OK with that, and to have faith in our abilities to do the best we can and to cope with whatever arises, we can relieve ourselves of undue fear, anxiety and suffering.
Yes, challenges, difficulties and pain will come up in life – it’s a fact of the human condition. But we can experience more joy, fun, love, compassion and connection by approaching our life and others with an open mind; by dropping expectations; by naming and letting go of fear.
I love this quote by author and artist Julia Cameron: “Leap and the net will appear”.
Stretch yourself; drop expectations and judgments, take the leap … and see what you’re truly capable of.
Over to you
What leaps could you take?
Start with yoga – try a pose which your mind tells you that you can’t do. Work with it in stages. Find out what you’re capable of. Ask your yoga teacher for advice. Most yoga postures can be broken down into stages. Start with stage 1 – there’s no shame in that. Starting with an “easier” version of a pose is so much better – and more positive – than avoiding it all together. Stretch your body and stretch your mind!
And how could you bring this attitude to your life? Is there any positive change you wish to make in your life? How can you bring that about? What small changes could you begin to make to enable you to have the health / life / work / relationships you want?
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I’m Stella Tomlinson and I teach slow, flowing Dru yoga in Southampton & Eastleigh (Hampshire, UK) to improve posture, flexibility, spinal health … and self-acceptance.
Dru yoga is characterised by graceful movements, directed breathing, relaxation techniques and working with affirmations and visualisations.