Letting go of expectations in your yoga practice

Every time we step on to our mat, we have experienced a different day, different feelings and our energy might not be the same as the day before.  So why do we often come to our practice expecting every posture to feel as strong as it did the practice before?  Expectation means a belief that we should or will achieve something.  But why do we put these pressures on ourselves before we even get started?  Here’s why you should drop your expectations on your mat and stay true to you.


Ahimsa: Non-Violence

In Yoga teachings, you might have heard of Patanjali’s Eight Limbs of Yoga.  These eight limbs cover all the parts of our practice both on and off the mat.  The eight limbs are; Yama – Moral Disciplines, Niyama – Positive Duties, Asana - Posture, Pranayama - Breathing, Pratyahara – Withdrawal from senses, Dharana – Focused concentration, Dhyana – Meditation and Samadhi – Bliss.  You might recognise some of these from your daily practice.  We always practice asana in class, and often Dhyana and Pranayama.  But the Yamas are the part of our practice which involve how we can best treat ourselves.  An important part of our practice we might not think about, because it’s all about getting into the really cool, hard postures, even if it hurts right? Wrong!

The first Yama is Ahimsa, the practice of nonviolence towards ourselves and of course others.  And when we practice yoga its crucial, we bare this word Ahimsa in mind, to help us let go of our expectations of ourselves and our bodies.  

Letting go of expectation

It can be frustrating when we can’t find our balance, we can’t get the bind or hold our headstand.  But reminding ourselves of Ahimsa reminds us to have patience, be kind to our bodies and minds and honour our own personal journey.  It doesn’t matter what the person on the mat next to you is doing.  It's all about learning to find our edge of discomfort, where we are challenging ourselves, but never pushing ourselves too hard to the point of causing harm to ourselves physically or emotionally.  If you are berating yourself for falling out of your tree pose, then you’ve lost your connection to the point of the practice.  Even if you nailed a posture yesterday or a week ago, let your expectations drop away.  The body and mind change day to day and so does our practice.   By honouring ourselves in any given moment, we give our practice chance to evolve organically, without force, giving us chance to really learn about ourselves in the process.  When we stop being our harshest critic, we let the mind and body work with us and not against us.


Practicing Ahimsa

  • Lost your connection to the breath mid flow?  Skip the vinyasa and take a child's pose to reconnect.
  • Use props to support your practice any way you need.  Straps, blocks, bolsters are there to help you not to hinder you.
  • Honour your body and its limits, take your time getting in and out of postures.  You don’t always have to drop into the hardest variation straight away.
  • Struggling to hold a posture comfortably and breath?  Regress to an easier variation.
  • Take a soft bend in the knees in forward folds if it's straining the lower back.
  • If your body needs something else in the moment, listen to your intuition and take what feels good, even if it means stopping following the guided sequence.

    Here’s to Ahimsa.

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