One of the things that makes a yoga class stand out from an exercise or fitness class is the focus on your attitude. When you’re new to yoga, this might be unexpected and perhaps even seem a bit strange. After all, you’ve got enough to do with thinking about the placement of your feet and the alignment of your arms without also trying to cultivate a particular attitude, haven't you?
Affects Our Experience
What happens on our yoga mat is a microcosm of what happens in our lives. What we practice on our mat has a direct impact on the way we live our lives. The thing about attitude is that it affects our experience of everything we do. It permeates - either tainting or illuminating - our every moment.
Although we intuitively know that cultivating a positive attitude helps us to feel happier, calmer and more compassionate, this is a lot easier to do when life is going our way. For example, it's easier to feel loving and kind towards yourself when your body seems strong and healthy, and you’re easily able to flow through your practice. On days when you feel ungainly, awkward and everything is a struggle, it’s much harder. (Read more in Ahimsa: A Self-Practice.)
However, if you can use your yoga practice to meet fear, frustration and/or failure with an attitude of playfulness, compassion and gentleness, you’re gaining a valuable skill to support your well-being both on and off your mat.
Yoga can also teach you about having an attitude of non-attachment. Through yoga, you can practice tapas, or self-discipline. You can learn to build strength without giving up when something doesn’t happen easily, and you can reap the benefits of practicing regularly, even when you don’t feel like it. The key to this happiness and contentment is to engender an attitude of non-attachment. The fruit of the work is the work itself, not the reward of some possible future outcome. This is a valuable attitude to cultivate throughout your whole life. (Learn how in The Wisdom of Non-Attachment.)
Develops Undisturbed Calmness
The final word on attitude has to lie with the Yoga Sutras. They tell us that:
“Undisturbed calmness of mind is attained by cultivating friendliness toward the happy, compassion for the unhappy, delight in the virtuous, and indifference toward the wicked.” If undisturbed calmness of mind isn’t enough reason to cultivate the right attitude, I don’t know what is! Enjoy your yoga, and use the time to develop your most positive and healthy state of mind. You won’t regret it. (Read on in Vritti: Calming the Waves of Your Mind.)