Most people who have been attending yoga classes for any length of time have had the experience of going further in a yoga pose than they thought they could. Whether it is touching hands to the floor in uttanasana, getting heels on the floor in downward dog or pushing into upward facing bow, we surprise ourselves in yoga when we discover a seemingly unachievable goal can actually be accomplished.
Perception Versus Reality
We all have perceived limits. We think we can only run so fast, bend so far or cannot possibly stand on our head. Often, these perceived limits do not match reality. We really can do most of these things. Yoga offers us a chance to take our bodies further than we thought possible and can also help us to remove obstacles and limits that are only in our minds.
Vairagya, non-attachment, is one of the most important concepts in yoga philosophy. We all become attached, not only to things we want, but to concerns, worries and fixed notions about ourselves and the world. If we can let go of our fears, our perceived limits and other preconceived ideas, we find there is more freedom in the mind and in the body.
Observe, Then Go Forward
Internal observation helps us to discover some of our attachments. When you think you cannot do a particular pose, take a few moments to see what is going on inside. Are you afraid of injury, failure, making a fool of yourself or do you not think you are strong or flexible enough? Discovering what mental obstacles exist is the first step in overcoming them.
Breathe and Relax
Pranayama, meditation and savasana are some of the most accessible tools to use in practicing non-attachment. When the body is relaxed and the mind is quiet, we are less caught up in outside concerns and inner quandaries. By letting go, there is a chance for our true inner self, a self without limits, to become more apparent.
Our knowledge that the mind is powerful can also help us break through limits. Yoga asanas strengthen both the body and the mind. A stronger mind is better able to push aside fear and other attachments. With obstacles out of the way, there is more focus on the actions and effort needed to go deeper or further in a yoga pose. This will not come as easily to beginning yogis, but as more experience is gained, willpower becomes easier to find.
All of this does not mean that we should blindly push ourselves forward. It is always important to be safe and aware in yoga. Listen to your body and learn when to stop. Just be sure that it is actually your body talking, not the false fears and attachments of the mind that create obstacles to progress.