With the rising popularity of yoga celebrities (especially on Instagram and at yoga festivals), I often ask myself, ‘What does it take to be a yoga student?’ Despite the number of followers someone has or amount of likes they get on social media, being a yoga student comes down to one thing: studying yoga. In order to be a yoga student, there are eight qualities you must have a willingness for and none of them require you to be able to touch your toes. Afterall, sometimes the most advanced yogis never leave a seated position.
Curiosity is what most likely brought you to yoga in the first place. What is this and can it help me? Unfortunately, as we become comfortable with the practice, we start to lose some of this curiosity. It’s important to keep curiosity alive for it is curiosity that drives us to try new asanas (yoga postures), go to a different type of yoga class, and ask the teacher what they meant when they were talking about chakras. Curiosity is a key motivator in deepening and expanding your yoga practice.
2. An inward turning eye
When you go to your first yoga class, it can be hard to turn in. The more you practice, the more you can cultivate an inward turning eye. That’s the part that is less concerned with where your body is placed and more concerned with what is happening beneath the surface. By seeking within you can give a voice to your inner teacher and get better connected with your needs and gut instincts.
This is one of the most common words heard in a yoga studio and for good reason. Compassion is a powerful tool in making the world a better place and it is one most yogis try to yield. Compassion has many different applications. Of course we want to treat those around us—be it our friends and family or the stranger on the street—with compassion and kindness, but we must also turn compassion upon ourselves. When we are kind and compassionate with ourselves, we give ourselves room to grow and blossom and be compassionate with others.
4. A sense of humor
Too many of us take yoga too seriously, but those who can keep a smile on their face and laugh when they fall out of Vriksasana (tree pose) are the ones who will learn how to stay in Vriksasana through the wobbles. When we aren’t afraid to look foolish we are more likely to take risks, and taking risks is how we grow. Plus, we learn better when we are having fun, so if you can laugh in your yoga class just imagine what you might learn while you are there.
Whether you have a sense of humor or not, you are going to fall. You are going to try to do a new arm balance or an especially bendy posture and fall. And that’s okay. That is why yoga is a practice. A good yoga student sees failure not as proof they cannot do something but as an opportunity to learn how. So practice and then practice some more. And before you know it you will look like this. Or maybe not, but at least you will have expanded your limits.
I’m not talking about being able to stand in a one-legged asana for multiple breaths or lift yourself into headstand. The kind of balance I’m talking about is the kind that permeates everything we do. Finding balance in our lives is akin to finding peace, and it’s something many of us are actively trying to get better at. There’s a happy medium between every extreme—between work and play, giving and taking, too much and not enough—and the more we try to find that happy medium the more balanced we will grow.
7. An open mind
You are going to be introduced to some bizarre ideas when on the yoga mat. Once I was in a class where the teacher presented us each with a unicorn card. I could have easily scoffed and ignored the silly card in front of my mat, but I didn’t. Instead, I asked myself what I could learn from this experience and if there was anything I could draw from the words my teacher was saying. This open-mindedness is what allows you to dive deeper into your yoga practice and discover things that our logical brains might not want to explore at first.
8. A discerning mind
In the end, I did not start using unicorn cards and I found the idea of unicorn power was not particularly useful for me. But I have started chanting and considering other spirit guides that might work for me—concepts that were equally foreign once upon a time. Having a discerning mind allows you to pick and choose what works for you. Whether it is deciding which modification to opt for in an asana or whether or not to cover your house in crystals, cultivating a discerning mind can help you make the best decision for you.