Taking Our Yoga Off the Mat

Beads of sweat collect on your temples. Your arms are wide at your side like wings, your heart open, feet grounded and stable. You are in your Warrior 2. Your yoga instructor guides you to close your eyes and tune in to the strength offered here. This is a moment where your internal power is expressed and felt outwardly. You feel in tune with your ability to breathe through the sensations arising in your body and the feelings moving through you. Here, on your mat, you are an empowered Warrior. But what happens when we step off the mat? I believe this is when our “Yoga” truly begins. Our practice has the profound ability to shift our reality in a way that is uplifting, nourishing, and deeply healing. As humans, we are all familiar with the challenges that life brings. We experience situations out of our control and we do our best with what we know to cope with stress, pain, and challenges. Sometimes we hold our breath, finding ourselves struggling through difficulties by dropping into resistance, afraid to feel and flow with our current life experiences.

When we are on the mat, our practice trains us to tune in to the discomfort and the full range of our feelings. During yoga, we learn to breathe through the sensations in our body that come up during a difficult or unfamiliar pose and to move with the emotions that we have brought to our practice. On the mat, we are offered the gift of total acceptance. A reminder that who you are and where you are right now is more than enough. This practice is not a place where we have to hide, push things away, or run from discomfort and imperfection. Our mat is a love letter, unfurling beneath our feet, and inviting us to bring it all to the table. A place where we can let ourselves be human: messy, imperfect, curious, emotional, and brave. In this place we are loved and whole, regardless. 

It is sometimes harder to remember this in our daily lives, when we don’t have a supportive instructor reminding us to feel our feet where they are and to breathe in and out. Not only do we each have individual mountains to climb and problems to solve, but collectively the state of the world can often feel overwhelming and disheartening. I am here to remind you that this is okay: this is the work. This is the journey of you becoming your own teacher through allowing yourself to learn through life. Remember your Mountain pose and stand tall and strong. Remember your Tree pose and realize that all your stages of growth are beautiful and necessary; and that it is okay to sway and move with the winds of change.

 Remembrances like these can offer us so much healing when we take them off the mat and into life. Calling on the experiences we gain in our practice invites light into spaces where we may have trouble finding it, and reminds us that this journey would not be complete without the balance of these shadows; for this is our evolution.

Not all of us come to yoga with the intention of healing, and that is okay. There are so many paths and reasons why people come to the mat and all of them are valid. Regardless of our “why,” we show up and we can’t help but to learn and transform. 

The way I see it, yoga is less about becoming and more about remembering. It is an open-handed offering to come as you are and to return to the power within yourself, even if you were previously unaware of this internal place of power. It is the pathway to presence, peace, and discovery. All we have to do is show up for ourselves. Falling is okay. We are not alone. There is a whole forest of people in tree pose standing beside us that can remind us what it feels like to be grounded and held in community.