Empty Your Cup

“In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities; in the expert’s mind there are few.” – Shunryu Suzuki

Sometimes I think the hardest thing about Bikram Yoga is not conquering the heat, or getting through the series of postures, but staying present and open to learning something new.  It’s not uncommon after a few months of regular practice for a student of this yoga to start jumping ahead of the Dialogue or tuning the teacher out, thinking they already know everything there is to know about this yoga.

Though I am a teacher, I would never consider myself an expert on the postures.  Proficient – yes.  Able to teach and make corrections to further my student’s practice – definitely.  But once you consider yourself an expert, there is very little room to fit more information into the brain, and with yoga there is always something new to learn no matter how advanced a practitioner you have become.

One of my favorite parables goes something like this:

A young man comes to visit a famous spiritual teacher. While the teacher quietly serves tea, the young man talks on and on about his spiritual experiences and opinions. The teacher fills the visitor’s cup to the brim and keeps on pouring. The young man watches the overflowing cup until he can no longer restrain himself.  “It’s overfull! No more will go in!” he blurts out. “You are like this cup,” the teacher replies, “full of your own opinions and speculations. How can I teach you anything unless you first empty your cup?”

Practicing Bikram Yoga with a mindset of never having gone through the series before, can open up a world of possibilities in your practice.  Though the Dialogue, the temperature of the room, and the series of postures are continually the same – you are not.  Everyday we are different and, therefore, have the opportunity to learn something new about ourselves.  If we stay present, listening to the Dialogue, there is always the chance that we will hear something we have never heard before, even after years of practice.  Or we may even hear something in a different way, helping us to understand it on a new level.

So, as soon as you hit the heat of the hot room, remember to open your mind to new possibilities, knowing that in yoga, as in life, there is always a new challenge ahead.  If we are open, using a beginner’s mindset, we are truly limitless.

9 thoughts on “Empty Your Cup

  1. This is great advice!
    I have been doing Bikram for more than half my life and am definitely guilty of this!
    I was talking to some newish students in the locker room last night, they were discussing an article in the local paper that quoted the state champion stating he practiced 3 hours everyday. And they couldn’t believe someone could take two classes in a single day, much less back to back. I laughed, because I’d just finished doubles. They asked why I’d do something so crazy, so I explained that all of my expectations and mind-self talk and ego exhaust themselves while warming up my body during the first class, so by the second it’s easy to just let go and practice deep within the dialogue. They both said they planned to take two classes (not back to back) over the weekend.

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