Updated: Aug 20, 2019
Often in teacher training courses the term, "Beginner's Mind" comes up frequently. We can get stuck in the mentality that if the teacher can do it easily, the students should be able to at least try. Certain movements begin to feel so natural we forget that it took a lot of practice to get our bodies to learn them. This summer my dad finally let me teach him yoga and a few other family members occasionally joined in. He is a fairly athletic guy so I had what I thought would be a great sequence with lots of heart opening and strong poses that can provide energy and improve his golf game. I made it through about half of the sequence having to make adjustments as I went to suit what his body was able to do that day. We only ended up doing about half of the poses and none of my intended peak poses as Virabhadrasana 1 and 2 were more than enough for him at the time. I had forgotten about the beginner's mind and how hard I, myself, have been working on finding balance.
Later in the summer I was lucky enough to convince Andrew that a paddleboard would be a great addition to our garage. I couldn't wait to get out on the water and do some yoga among the quieter spots on the lake that are full of water lilies. After almost falling in a million times I found that the paddleboard was an EXCELLENT tool for building sequences designed for the temporarily unbalanced beginner. With practice, poses on the board got easier but it was also an excellent reminder of the benefits of moving slowly and mindfully. I was able to make adjustments and finally created a sequence that had all the benefits I was looking for in a sequence that was accessible for him to do with stability and ease.
Whenever I think about beginner's mind a happy visit with my nephew comes to mind. He was maybe two and a half years old and I took him to the playground. He was still quite scared to go on the big slide or on the swings but he tried them all. When he was walking along the wooden beam and trying to balance he fell down. Not far or hard just lost his balance and ended up on the ground. Being one of my first times watching him alone I waited, holding my breath, to see how he would react, fearing he would be screaming or crying from the shock. This is not what happened at all, he looked up at me laughing and said simply, "It's okay to fall! My mommy always says it's okay to fall." I couldn't agree more. He popped right back up and kept trying.
*side note* It should not go unmentioned that while my dad had to focus hard on maintaining balance in his yoga poses, there are few people around who can keep up with him on his bicycle.