Yoga is an expression from the inside out. The external expressions of the poses are merely a reflection of that which you cannot see: your creativity, your heart, your awareness, your intention, and your attitude.
It isn’t about achieving the perfect asana or even doing the asanas perfectly, yoga is about you in the pose—whether or not you can pay attention, how you respond to confrontation, what you’re telling yourself, and so forth, and so on.
Your Yoga Attitude
This is why attitude is the single most important aspect of yoga practice—more than the breath, more than the poses.
Your attitude, the attitude you inhabit while on the mat, creates the context for your practice. It is the foundation for everything you do in class. And it’s your attitude, how you reside on the inside, that makes you a yogi. Not your level of physicality.
The great thing about attitude is that it’s your choice.
You don’t get to choose the sequence of poses taught by the teacher, or how long you’re going to hold the poses. You don’t get to choose how tight your hamstrings, hips, or shoulders are. You certainly don’t get to choose what the practice brings up for you.
What you are in control of, essentially, is your breath (whether or not you’re breathing) and your attitude.
The Relationship between Attitude and Intention
In class, the teacher will often ask you to set an intention. Whether your intention is to offer your practice to the suffering of all mankind, or to simply feel better in your body, your personal intention helps form your attitude and establishes the direction for your entire practice.
Everything then done on the mat is not only shaped by your intention, but also a reflection of your intention. Your intention and your attitude are intricately linked.
Rather than ask them to set an intention at the beginning of class, I sometimes ask my students to ask themselves how they’d like to be for the next hour or so of practice—reminding them that it’s a continual choice they must make moment-to-moment on the mat, especially as things get tough.
Practicing for Life
"Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. It is more important than past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness, or skill. It will make or break a company, a church, a home."
"The remarkable thing is we have a choice every day regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past. We cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable."
"The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude."
I am convinced that life is 10 percent what happens to me and 90 percent how I react to it. And so it is with you. We are in charge of our attitudes. – Charles Swindoll
The above quote by author and preacher Charles Swindoll sums up my sentiments on attitude perfectly.
In the end, all we are really doing on the mat is practicing for life. We work on being who we want to be on the mat (in a safe, contained environment) in order to have the strength, courage, and aptitude to be who we truly are out in the world.