Practicing on & off the mat

Thinking SPRING!

I recently had a request for a private yoga lesson from someone who wanted to “make sure they were doing yoga right”.  Another person informed me that they were not interested in yoga because they were “not flexible enough to do the postures”.  These two examples reminded me that people often come to yoga with the idea they will do postures on the mat, stretch their body and get a workout.  Though this is true, Yoga can be so more than the physical postures.  The word yoga means union – the integration of the body, mind and spirit.

We often come to yoga to practice postures and we quickly discover there is so much more to this “practice”.  When I started my practice of yoga I found myself looking around the room so confused about what to do and how to do it.  I, too, wanted to ‘do it right’.  I persevered and continued to return to the class because of the inner knowing that this was something that would be good for my life and it helped me relax.  At the time, more than 10 years ago, I was extremely stressed because of a family situation.  I did not imagine yoga would become a part of my daily life, on and off the mat.

Every day we can practice yoga, even if we cannot make it to class.  We can practice yoga off the mat by being present and bringing awareness to our thoughts – that is yoga.  When we find joy in stories or interactions during our day – that is yoga.  When we struggle and linger with discomfort – that is yoga.  Practicing yoga, on and off the mat, takes, well …. practice!

Yes, a consistent physical yoga practice will help to reduce stress, increase core strength and flexibility, and improve physical balance.  When we move to awareness of our thoughts more regularly and take responsibility to be with our feelings, rather than bury what wants to rise up, we will be more in tune with our soul, our spirit.  And by doing so, we create the possibility to live the life we always imagined.

6 responses to “Practicing on & off the mat

  1. Maureen
    As the person that wanted to make sure I was “doing yoga right” I thank you for taking the time for a private lesson. More importantly , with your guidance I have discovered that yoga is more than just the physical postures, it is creating balance in one life.
    So, thank you to my”little” sister
    luv sharon

  2. Sharon,
    Although you did say that about doing yoga right, you represent so many people (including me in my early practice) – which is what made me think it was important to write about. I just replied about your comment on the 8 limbs on our Two Sister’s blog….. I am amazed at how quickly you are understanding about all the aspects of the practice of yoga and it is because of your dedication and discipline to learn about it.
    Imagine after over 10 years on my path of the yoga journey, I am walking down the road and here is my sister -walking with me and teaching ME so much in the process – that makes me very happy!
    Love you.
    Maureen

  3. Maureen
    Practicing on and off the mat! You could not have said this any better. I too, never imagned that yoga would become such a big part in my life. I also, was brought to yoga by a stressful family situation. I have attempted to try to relay these exact thoughts to my husband. Telling him yoga is not about wrapping yourself into a pretzel or putting your foot behind your head; it is about breathing and finding some joy in sitting and de-stressing (even if you can not sit on the floor) he then asked me, “then why do you do the postures?”,hummm, I had to think about that for a moment…the first thought was that It feels good! I like the feeling of stretching my body. I like the physical strength and confidence I’ve gained since I started my practice on the mat and who doesn’t like to feel strong and confident? That said, I have found just what you said, by doing the yoga asanas (postures) on the mat it has taught me to be aware of my thoughts and feelings off the mat. Yoga is teaching me to listen to my body (I might not always listen) but that is why it takes PRACTICE on and off the mat!

  4. Susie,
    Thanks for the very thoughtful post. It enriches the blog when readers are involved, providing feedback and telling their story. I was thinking more about Asana and how it helps my practice relative the other limbs. One example, is asana requires discipline – I think that can help with the other aspects of the practice – i.e. meditation. Also, as we pay attention, intuitively, to what our body is telling us during asana practice, we can use that wisdom to maintain or obtain a more healthy body which contibutes to a healthy mind – and an increased awareness – on & off the mat.
    And I think Doug should come to yoga – it is better to have a direct experience — I know you agree – one day perhaps he will come – when he is ready 🙂
    Maureen

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