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Saturday, August 6, 2011

Yoga - Beyond the Mat

As we approach our mats, we accept the opportunity to become reacquainted with ourselves.  Not only to mindfully connect our mind, body and breath, but also to listen to what comes up. Honoring our physical selves, reaching for our edge or choosing to back away, reveals all manner of joy, ache, or pain.

In a recent visit to the mat I extended into a forward fold and as I walked my hands around to grasp my ankle, my mind drifted to my unpainted toenails. Though it was only a split second, it was a criticism. Thankfully, I remembered hearing that if people were worried about my pedicure they were not focused on their mat or practice. That applied to me as well. 

The point is, that during our practice, all manner of self talk comes up. As we remain non-judgmental we will be able to hear ourselves, refocus on our breath and presence and let go. The hearing is what becomes important. How am I speaking to and of myself as I practice? How far will I wander from my breath and push my way into a pose? Do I remember the way of ease? Is my focus inward or outward? 

Having rolled our mats away, we head into the world with that same self talk. The ways that we push ourselves without consideration of  ease leads to injury, stress, burnout, and disappointment. Those moments when we find ourselves bored can be relieved with a bit of effort. By extending ourselves beyond the previously established boundaries we find we have more to offer, to share. 

Am I willing to risk looking different to be myself? We are each unique and must look to our own bodies and practice for the expression of that moments pose (asana). Every downward facing dog is new, with its own insights to teach. While we may follow the cues of instruction, the essence of being there is personal and internal. Looking around for comparison to another rejects understanding for ourelves. So, too, when we live our lives in the reflection of others. The energy we spend keeping up with outside standards drains us, leaving little energy or attention for our true passions. We trade being present and aware for what looks "right." 

The practice of yoga (the union of mind, body and breath) free of competition, expectation, and judgment, clears the channels for depth of understanding, healing wounds, and overcoming obstacles. What comes up on the mat - feelings of hurt, loss, criticism, powerlessness, or fear - are offered that we might release them and move through. As the channel clears we receive peace, love and joy - in abundance. The practice of yoga allows us to tame the mental chatter that keeps us distracted from living in the present.

We are always welcome on our mats.Our mats are safe spaces to release, relax and let go. No class or teacher necessary. As we decide, we come, standing, sitting, or lying, and ground again into the earth. We allow our hearts to lift with expansion and bellies to pull in with release. Breathing belongs to us, in or out of class - on or off the mat. 

We practice yoga on the mat. We live yoga off the mat.


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