When am I NOT a beginner yoga student?

A student asked me a few weeks ago "When am I not considered a beginner yoga student anymore?" Good question.

In the moment, I tried to answer in a couple of logical ways but the answers kept circling back around to the original question. When does someone shift past beginner?

In my own practice, I’ve been contemplating this very dilemma. I teach 6-8 yoga classes a week, am building my own personal practice, am consistently reading about yoga, am currently in trainings to deepen my practice BUT I can’t gracefully come into crow pose so I must be considered a “beginner”…? And in this reflection, I’m definitely comparing myself to the Instagram yogis that I see in wheel pose, forearm pressing into handstands and a ton of other poses that my body isn’t ready for (and maybe never will be!).

In this moment of contemplation, I can deem myself a failure of a yoga teacher or I can consider that asana (the physical practice of yoga) is not all of yoga. There are eight limbs that make up yoga practice and no where in those eight limbs says that you have to be able to master crow pose in order to be considered an “intermediate” student (that I know of, at least).

And here, we come back to that same question - When am I not considered a beginner student anymore?

The answer that I have come to is this:

You will always be a beginner student.

Every single day, you wake up anew. You slept in a different position, you experienced different things yesterday than you did the day before, you ate differently, you spoke to different people, you experienced different thoughts and emotions, you are different today. And therefore, today, as you step on your mat, this is a completely new practice.

Baron Baptiste writes in his book Perfectly Imperfect, “The yogis say you can never step into the same river twice, because the current is always shifting and changing. You’ve never stepped into this exact river before today… Every pose is a new opportunity, each and every time.”

Reading this paragraph was the most incredible release of pressure for me. There’s no need to compare myself to yesterday’s self!? Ah!! Yes!! Freedom!

Every daily moment, every yoga practice, every breath is completely different. I know that I’ve had yoga practices where my neck or leg was definitely not going to go into that position that I’ve done 500 times before and those where I flowed in so easily that I felt like I’d been doing this since I was born (which we totally have but that’s another post). Sometimes, those practices were in the same week.

My goal from here is to embrace the beginner’s mindset in my yoga practice as well as my daily life. This is the 300th time I’ve done warrior, what can I learn today? This is the 1000th time I’ve washed the dishes, what can I learn today?

Sending big love ~ Mackenzie

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