The art of developing a growth mindset with yoga
Are you a yoga beginner, who recently entered the world of those fascinating, impressive and yet intimidating postures (asanas)? Maybe your body movements are advanced already, but you are still intimidated by the ‘elf-like’ yoginis on the mat next to you. Does this comparison, this intimidation maybe even hold you from deeply and pleasurably flourish during your yoga class? Are you afraid of being criticised, threatened by the ‘success’ of your friends on the mat or by your teacher? There is a simple and beautiful solution:
It all depends on your mindset
If those examples resonated with you, you might have (a tendency of a) fixed mindset — at least in the field of yoga. Carol Dweck, Stanford University professor of psychology, conceptualised the model of a fixed versus a growth mindset. What’s a mindset? The mindset defines, how we absorb and ‘digest’ information, how we save it, and how we ‘reproduce’ it. The mindset is a predominant psychological predisposition, determining how we think and behave.
Do you recognise a tendency to avoid challenges and negative feedback, judge effort as being useless or inefficient, are you threatened by the success of others? Those are strong indicators for a fixed mindset. Do not worry: The beauty of the mindset concept is that we can actively influence it. It might seem easier (not only in the yoga world) to nestle in the comfort zone and to not endanger our status of being ‘a competent and intelligent person’ by the revelation of not being good enough (yet!). We should remember that things could drastically change when we try to develop a growth mindset. We could enter a new world by embracing learning and growing.
According to various Positive Psychology researches, not only a growth mindset but also practising yoga can positively influence our well-being. Only twenty minutes of yoga a day would be enough already. Shouldn’t this be celebrated and savoured to the fullest? It does not depend on whether our focus is strengthening our body, work on our backpain, or if we just intend to calm our mind. There is a way to enrich our practice by developing and growing our mindset in a positive way (not only on the mat):
5 ways to develop a growth mindset on the yoga mat
# 1: Embrace imperfection
Even if you are mentally and physically not prepared (yet!) to follow the yoga class, try to see it as a valuable way of growing and learning. It can be liberating and advantageous to know your physical limits, which might seem like imperfections to you. They are not. If you listen to your body, you will benefit from healthy and mindful guidance throughout your yoga practice. You can even be very grateful because you will stay healthy and avoid injuries. Hiding this assumed weakness of not doing the perfect yoga posture could result in injuries or standstill. So, you could easily replace ‘I failed’ by ‘I learned’. Encouraging failure and making mistakes could be your goal because learning is the goal.
# 2: Value your own personal way
Yoga is not a race. Learning is not a race. It is a process, and you can celebrate every micro step of learning. It does not matter how long it takes to get there. Try to encourage yourself to love your process, your personal way of yoga as much as you might love the result (of being a strong and healthy yogi for example). There will be setbacks but getting feedback from others helps us to cultivate new ways of thinking, new ways of trying different postures. It is not all about effort but about the risk, excitement, and enthusiasm for trying new things. Try to stay curious and open-minded to learn new techniques for breathing or relieving stress for example: There are so many different classes and yoga styles. Stay open. Challenge your comfort zone.
# 3: Find your WHY
Research shows that not only yoga but also journaling does have a positive impact on our well-being. Only ten minutes of writing a day would be enough already. You could do that after the yoga class because you will probably feel a bit grounded and your mind is calmed down. You could reflect on the bigger picture. What do you like about yoga? What did you learn already? Being very mindful about your WHY and realising your emotions and thoughts could lead to action: We can identify our personal (fear-driven) barriers, which could lead to new actions or strategies to pursue our goal; to find our meaning. Let’s cultivate self-reflection and fuel self-development even if it is unflattering sometimes.
# 4: Do not seek external approval
As soon as external approval is more important to yourself than learning or growing, your yoga practice is influenced: You limit your own potential for growth. There might be yoga classes that are overcrowded. One teacher might overlook thirty people, and your co-yoginis are (at best) busy with themselves. You could give yourself approval by what you are doing. Try to focus on your body, your thoughts, your breathing, be mindful. Maybe you even lose the sense of time and belonging and get totally lost in what you are doing. You could experience flow in your yoga class. Remind yourself that there is absolutely no need for external approval. And if you are even criticised instead of being celebrated, again, be grateful for the feedback and value your own process. Do not let a hard words harden your heart.
# 5: Be responsible
You own your attitude; you own your mindset. There are many ways to develop a growth mindset, and you can celebrate your own mindful way to cultivate it. Celebrate your mini and maxi achievements during your yoga classes. Probably your personal comfort zone expands by every little (yoga) lesson, you learn, your mindset keeps growing while you stay open-minded and curious and be honest with yourself.
Acknowledge and appreciate your learning. Research shows that people with a growth mindset are happier, it can be a wonderful life-long journey.
Do you want to read more:
Van Tongeren, D., & Burnette, J. (2018). Do you believe happiness can change? An investigation of the relationship between happiness mindsets, well-being, and satisfaction. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 13(2), 101–109.
You want to dive deeper and learn more about the science of happiness (on the yoga mat):
Ivtzan, I., & Papantoniou, A. (2013). Yoga meets positive psychology: Examining the integration of hedonic (gratitude) and eudaimonic (meaning) wellbeing in relation to the extent of yoga practice. Journal of Bodywork & Movement Therapies, 18(2), 183–189.
Are you a digital nomad, a traveling yogi, this might be interesting for you:
Japutra, A., Loureiro, S., Molinillo, S., & Ekinci, Y. (2019). Travellers’ mindsets and theory of planned behaviour. Tourism Management Perspectives, 30, 193.
In meinen Yoga Kursen montags und donnerstags in Lingen werden ganz spielerisch alltagstaugliche Übungen der Positiven Psychologie eingebunden. Mein Ziel ist es, Dein Glücksempfinden zu steigern und Dir Gutes für Körper und Geist zu tun. Vielleicht schaffen wir es, ganz nebenbei ein positives wachstumsbereites ‚growth mindset‘ zu kultivieren. Es gibt fortlaufende neue Kurse in Lingen. Der Quereinstieg ist jederzeit möglich.i