Challenging Yoga Pose: Empowering or Limiting?

As a yoga teacher that quite often asks students to move out of their comfort zones either with a strong practice or challenging poses, its interesting to watch where the minds of my students go. 

For some, a pose they haven't mastered is something that makes them rub their hands together and eyes light up.  For others, a challenging pose serves to reinforce what they can and can't achieve in life and so becomes yet another reminder of what is out of range for them.

What's interesting to note is not so much who can or can't do a certain pose but who is empowered by something new or beyond their practice at that moment and who allows those postures to become a blunt reminder of limiting beliefs.  Sometimes the observing of our attitudes toward a posture is just as important as achieving the pose itself. 

What exactly is a belief that is limiting?  It is a thought or idea that there is a ceiling to what we can achieve and that ceiling is as hard as how rigidly we hold onto a truth we create for ourselves.  What's interesting is most of our beliefs are murky, not clearly defined generalization based on our past experiences.  We don't often even consciously decide what we are going to believe, and yet a belief is an idea or a thought that has grown roots into our subconsious mind.  And its these roots that make us certain that this belief is fact. 

For example,  you may believe that you are a victim to the circumstances around you.  You are the one always doing the brunt of the work, your luggage always gets lost, your equipment is never right,  you will never get the love or respect you deserve in any intimate or work relationship.  Any circumstance that happens in life, serves to reinforce how you always get the short end.  You can find experiences to back up almost any belief.

So the key then,  is to make sure that you’re consciously aware of the beliefs you’re creating.  And you can start on the mat.  The beauty of yoga practice is that there's a rawness to physical practice.  We are faced with very graspable challenges, ideas, thoughts about ourselves in a way that directly communicates to the conscious mind because of its innate physicality.  There is nothing abstract or fuzzy about the feelings that arise when we are tight in triangle pose or we are feeling weak in Warrior III.  

Notice the thoughts that come up when you are asked to do a pose you don't like, can't do or are challenged by.  If they don’t empower you, they are reinforcing a thought process that you may not even realize you have and furthermore may be holding you back. So when discouraging beliefs arise, remember there is always a choice, you can't choose in a particular moment to be successful in doing a pose as perfectly as a photo from The Yoga Journal, but you can choose, everytime, to achieve the posture to your ability and MORE importantly you can choose how you feel, and what you tell yourself!  This greater self awareness and healing of negative though patterns is one of the greatest gifts yoga gives us.

All personal breakthroughs begin with a change of mind. The moment we begin to question our beliefs and observe where our minds go, then those roots we have grown start to atrophy.  As we let go of our limiting beliefs, we make room for possibility.  When we start to come into the power of certainty a powerful positive belief provides, we start to accomplish things we never dreamt possible. 

So, next time, when faced with a challenging crow pose or any other posture that you shut down around, remember, There are no failures, only outcomes—as long as I learn something I’m succeeding. So go ahead and give it a try!  Namaste'

Francesca Ter Poorten