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Why Ditching The Plan Can Be The Best Plan In Yoga (And In Life!)

Yoga | Yoga for Beginners

“When’s class start, coach?” My sweet partner asked as we rolled out our mats, a good half hour early. A half hour we could have used enjoying another few minutes of sleep followed by tea. A half hour the karma yogi up front could have used preparing the studio before we’d barged in too early. A half hour we could have avoided taking an unintended nap in Child’s Pose before the first Sun Salutation.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for planning ahead. There’s little more irritating as an instructor than when a student stumbles into my class mid-Ohms. But for me, someone with a ‘log it on a spreadsheet ahead of time’ approach to life, planning can suck the holy joy out of my practice, and my life.

Here are a few ways I tame the urge to plan the hell out of every little detail – in yoga, and in life:

Rock a Big, Silly Grin In Downward Facing Dog

One of my favorite teachers yanked me out of my Downward Facing Dog doldrums by commanding – with a giant grin – that I reach my bright, shiny (“imagine a light bulb attached to it Shannon!”) tailbone high up into the sky. Funny? Corny? You decide, but in that moment, I dropped the plan, tried her way of doing the pose, and laughed my ass-ana off as I reached it back and up higher than ever before.

Quit Thinking About That Post-Class Smoothie

I confess, I’ve visualized mangoes and avocadoes blended into all sorts of yummy-ness whilst teaching a 90-minute flow class on an empty stomach (only once, I promise). But alas, it happens. When it does, I re-direct my focus to what’s right in front of me and am quickly reminded how alive I feel.

Alive synchronizing my breath with the student I’m assisting in Half Pigeon Pose. Alive noticing when a verbal cue I’ve given results in a physical embodiment or a quizzical look of confusion. Take this off the mat and you begin to notice the how your dog’s ears perk up when you give him a little love. How the check out clerk’s face brightens when you compliment her on her smile.

To be fully present and let go of what’s next on the day’s agenda is to practice yoga.

Give Yourself An Experience Instead Of An Expectation

That’s how breakthroughs happen. Get too caught up in what the result should be and you skip the ever-important process required to positively transform. Think about this within a pose.

We often have a plan of where we are going to go in Half Moon Pose – right hand goes here, hip goes there – don’t adjust me dammit or I might fall! But drop the plan, listen closely to the cues, try a different variation or entry into the posture and BOOM – all of a sudden, breakthrough!

After nixing my recent planned goal of running X number of miles in Y amount of time, I took a detour from expectation and noticed a gorgeous red cardinal peeking out behind the branch of a budding tree, I kissed the head of a neighbor’s Golden Retriever, and finished my run with a sense of gratitude for life as it is right now. Not how my plan expected it to be.

Stop Looking Like A Jerk

…And listen already. Hard to do when planning what you’re going to say as the person across from you shares something about their life. Teaching and practicing yoga has shown me the difference in how I appear to others when I take the time to remember my students and fellow yogis’ names, what they do for fun, whether they drink coffee or tea vs. when my mind wanders ahead. When I see them for the tenth time and can’t remember their name, I look like a jerk.

So try it, yogis – ditch the plan and enjoy what is right smack in front of you.

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