7 Simple Lessons From the Mat
Even if you are not a yogi or yogini, there will be something for you in this post. Last summer I participated in a local yoga challenge and completed 65 classes in 50 days. Dedicating that time to my yoga practice helped me learn and re-learn some powerful lessons.
1. My thoughts limit my actions.
When a challenging pose is being demonstrated, my go to reaction is, “not in this lifetime.” And with that, my brain takes over and reminds my body that my hamstrings are too tight or my arms are too short or that the pose will hurt my knees/shoulders/insert other body part here.
We dismiss opportunities everyday by reminding ourselves that we can’t do it. It’s good to think things through, but go with your gut and your heart and trust yourself to try new things. Always challenge your never and ask for help.
2. I can’t do everything today.
Some days on the mat are a breeze. My mind is naturally quiet and my body flows effortlessly from pose to pose. Other times, I am so wrapped up in my own thoughts that it’s a struggle just to relax my jaw. I used to feel defeated going into class with a busy mind, low energy or a tweaked knee because I wouldn’t be able to do every pose. Then I remembered that it is ok to do what I can and what is best for my body.
Much like yoga class, our days are full of options and opportunity. We don’t have to do it all. We can’t do it all. We are better for it when we don’t try to do it all.
3. We all need permission to exhale.
Heavy sighs often represent exhaustion or dissatisfaction, but several times throughout a yoga class, the teacher invites us to take a deep breath in through the nose and to let it all out with a big sigh. It feels so good to let it all go. In class we might be releasing energy from a high paced sequence and helping the heart rate come down, but think of the benefits a big exhale can have in your day-to-day life.
Take a deep breath in through your nose and then release it with a big sigh the next time you are in traffic, running late, frustrated, excited, stressed, anxious. Try it.
4. There is a place between ease and strain.
When I practice balance poses, I weave and wobble if there isn’t enough tension in my body. Likewise, if my jaw is clenched, eyebrows furrowed and gaze locked, I can’t find stillness and fall out of the pose. If I push or back off just a tiny bit, I find that magical place between ease and strain called steadiness.
Hard work isn’t always a sign of good work. Steadiness can improve relationships, foster creativity and improve health.
5. Action kills fear.
In certain yoga poses, I am afraid that I will literally fall right on my face and break my nose. It’s very unlikely, but the fear is there. When I am creating something or putting myself out there in life, I am equally afraid of falling on my face and breaking my heart.
I have fallen in both yoga and life, but my nose is relatively straight and my heart is strong. Fear is ok and action will always shut it down.
6. Keep your eyes on your own mat.
My yoga pose doesn’t have to look like yours to be magnificent. Each pose is an individual expression that represents our abilities, emotions, what we had for breakfast and so many other things.
There is no benefit in comparison in yoga or in life.
7. Everyone deserves yoga.
Regardless of financial means or ability, everyone interested truly deserves yoga. Many studios offer reduced rates for students, free first time classes, and other options if you can’t pay. Yoga is also for all ages and abilities or disabilities. I participated in creating a free yoga DVD for MS patients with yoga expert, Baron Baptiste. The DVD is free and you don’t have to have MS to enjoy the 3 levels of practice. There is a message for MS patients on the DVD but not throughout the individual classes.
When I think about making yoga more accessible, I wonder what else we can make more accessible. Everyone deserves food, shelter, love and warmth too. How can you make other things you enjoy in life more accessible to people who go without?
The beauty of your pose, how close your heels get to the floor or if your fingers touch your toes doesn’t really matter. Bringing lessons from the mat into life is the true heart of yoga.
What lessons have you learned from practicing yoga? If you’ve never taken a class, what are you waiting for?
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