The practice of yoga offers us tools for life that can help us tremendously when we leave the mat. It is our choice whether to apply them as we continue our day. Dripping with sweat, floating from the yoga high, we are already planning our next practice. We are yogis. Here is what keeps us coming back:
1. LET IT GO
As we flow through postures on the mat, the fleeting nature of Life becomes glaringly obvious. All we ever have is RIGHT NOW. Moment to moment, we are forced to let go of each pose as the next one comes. Each pose comes, and then it goes. We feel it, we stretch it, we breathe in ALL the goodness we can, we hold it in, and then, just like that… we breathe. it. ALL. out. We let go of things no longer serving us. We feel lighter. Less resistant. More accepting. We literally learn to go with the flow.
2. LEAN INTO DISCOMFORT
Some postures are extremely uncomfortable. We feel a ton of sensation and we want to back out. We may even get angry. For a while we may back out of a pose or even avoid it altogether, but as our practice progresses, we learn to lean INTO these uncomfortable sensations because we notice an incredible release on the other side. It starts by showing itself physically in the form of flexibility or strength. Then we notice more. We become more adventurous. We let our hair down. Our minds open. We get comfortable going out of our comfort zone, on and off the mat, because we know it’s the only way to grow.
3. BREATHE DEEPLY
When you spend enough time listening to your breath, stretching it extra long, holding it in, squeezing it out, getting really empty, controlling it with patience, and moving your body with it, it becomes increasingly easy to do the same when you are late for work, get stuck in a traffic jam, feel an argument coming on with your spouse, stub your toe, and the list goes on. Your breath is always there for you. In every single moment that passes, whether you are aware of it or not, your breath is your anchor. Learn to see it as a friend, as nourishment, as comforting, as grounding. We roll out our mats to listen to & move with our breath. To honor it. We put it first. This simple practice of breath awareness leads us to a more automatic tapping into our breath in the moments we need it the most.
In the same way we visit a friend, we pay a visit to ourselves. We suit up & check in. We participate in a silent, moving meditation. We get quiet. We listen to our breath. We notice where sensation arises. We don’t have to do anything about it. Just notice it. We choose to step off the roller coaster of thought. We don’t judge what comes up, we just let it be. We notice, accept & embrace exactly where we are. Thoughts come in constantly but we keep choosing our breath. Each pose is just a place to come back to breath – our first priority. The postures become a vehicle to practice mindfulness. To FEEL alive. To JUST BE.
5. STRONG BODY, STRONG MIND
There will always be a new challenge presenting itself on the mat, whether it be a posture or an injury. Breath and asana are the keys to freedom from self limitation that lives in your mind. There is always somewhere new to go on your mat. Modify, intensify, do what works for you, but remember, the postures you avoid are the ones you need the most. Get real with yourself. Is what you’re doing working? Get out of your comfort zone. FIND YOUR EDGE. In every single pose, find your edge. Sometimes this means backing off a little bit. Listen to your body. Lean into sensation. WELCOME the challenge with open arms. We bend so we don’t break. We go upside down to stay right side up. Our commitment the practice helps us handle life’s challenges with grace. We are true warriors.
ON AND OFF THE MAT
Every single one of these things is a PRACTICE. Everyday we have a choice. The hardest part is suiting up and showing up. Every time I roll out my mat I learn something new about myself. It’s not always pretty and I don’t always want to do it, but I am always in a better mood afterward and it has only gotten better.
With that, to all my amazing yogis and friends out there… PEACE OUT 2015! Thank you for making it so amazing. Happy New Year to ALL OF YOU, let’s make 2016 even more incredible… TOGETHER!
Yoga is a mindfulness practice. Read more about this in my post Mindfulness is a Practice.