Sweat & Smiles: The Importance of Beginner's Mind

By Melissa Romano on January 16, 2021 from Sweat & Smiles via

I’ve been a certified personal trainer, teaching group fitness classes, and teaching yoga for 11 years. One thing that always struck me as odd is that people felt they needed to “get in shape” prior to seeking a personal trainer or attending any classes. What seemed even more comical were those that stated they couldn’t do yoga because they were not flexible.
Irony all worthy of an Alanis Morissette hit. Of course now that I have directed my studies and practices to include psychoneuroimmunology (the study of the effect of the mind on health and resistance to disease), mind body psychology, and how the entire human system works as a whole these ironic beliefs at least make a little more sense. It’s shame that drives those beliefs.
Our very human and primal instinct is simply trying to keep us safe, from an evolutionary point of view we don’t want to get kicked out of the community. The thing is, you won’t get kicked out of the community and beyond that a beginner’s mind is exactly what you should enter every class, movement, and day with. 
Beginner’s Mind is considered one of the eight attitudes of mindfulness. Beginner’s Mind teaches you to go into each moment free of expectation and free from past experiences. That means you don’t bring your expectations that you “should be better… more flexible… in shape”. When we’re able to remove the attachment of the past and just be, we are able to be fully present. That’s the only agenda, to be fully present. Anything outside of the present moment leads to overthinking, judgement, and lots and lots of roadblocks.
After a couple years of personal training and yoga I found myself using an “expert mind”. I don’t know if that’s an actual mindset but I was using the opposite of the beginner’s mind.
When you are constantly going into every moment with your beliefs about what you ‘know’ you are prevented from seeing things as they really are. This was a hard lesson to learn that took a lot of pushing too hard, injuries, discontent, and dissatisfaction before I really got it. 
From a student’s perspective I’ve seen exponentially more growth in any of my practices when I utilize the beginner’s mind. Even though I’ve done squats, pushups, and downward facing dog hundreds of thousands of times I am able to learn more and more about the postures and my own body each time because of the beginner’s mind. It’s also guided me towards building self-trust and the ability to listen to my body.
There are days where I am able to do the more challenging variations of some postures and moves. There are days when I back out of a posture or move and choose a variation that feels better to my mind and body in that moment. I’ve found that listening to my own body and pulling back has made me just as strong as the days I’ve felt good pushing myself further into more challenging postures and moves. 
The Beginner’s Mind is what will give us the space we need to grow and change. When applied to other facets of our life we’ll find that instead of going into conversations within our relationships carrying the weight of all our past experiences and expectations we free ourselves and everyone else up to have new experiences. Attending to our relationships with the beginner’s mind gives all parties involved the continuous opportunity to grow and evolve instead of being stuck in our old habits and patterns.
If you are a beginner starting something new go into it knowing that a beginner’s mind comes with a great advantage. If you are a seasoned veteran or advanced in your field go into it knowing that a beginner’s mind comes with a great advantage. The Beginner’s Mind is what will give us the space we need to grow, change, and get stronger.
With the beginner’s mind,
PS I would not be doing my due diligence as a yoga therapist if I were not to add that yoga is not at all about flexibility though an increase in flexibility is certainly a benefit.

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