Yoga on and off the mat
Yoga means union. A union between mind, body, spirit and breath.
This seems to be readily available to me when I am “on the mat”. Whether I am at home doing my own practice, in a studio practicing with a wonderful teacher or when I am the one doing the teaching. I am focused, tuned-in, connected and present.
What happens when I leave the mat or practice space? What happens when I go back to my everyday life in NYC? Do I take what I have so carefully and diligently practiced in these safe spaces out into the world at large?
Well… here’s a confession for ya… I sometimes (okay a lot of times) leave it all on the mat!
Now I do believe that over time, practicing yoga and meditation does filter out into day-to-day life in synergetic and subconscious ways. I’ve witnessed this in myself as well as in students and in friends. A shift begins to happen naturally. The mind, body, spirit and breath have become more attuned with each other.
Usually when on the mat or practicing in any way, we are in a peaceful, supportive environment, which helps and encourages the process of finding that yoga or union within ourselves.
However, when life “off the mat” becomes heightened by unexpected, uncontrollable stress or even happy excitement, it can be easy for the mind, body, spirit and breath to habitually fall back on old, less supportive ways.
The mind races, the body tenses up, the spirit is overcome with emotion, and the breath is out of control… any of this sound familiar?
Maybe there is a lashing out verbally or physically. Maybe over indulging occurs during times of celebration. Reacting as opposed to responding to the situation at hand.
Finding the yoga or union between the time on the mat and the time off the mat can be challenging. So where to start? How to find the connection between our yoga/meditation practices on the mat with our life off the mat?
The breath is where we begin and it is eventually where and how we will all end. It is essential and it is informative.
Right now for a moment become aware of your breath. No need to close your eyes or start a deep meditation. (Not recommended while working, driving or traversing the city streets.) A simple awareness of inhaling and exhaling is all that is needed. Next, become aware of how the breath is affected by and is also having an affect upon your current situation, thoughts, emotions and physical body.
Breathe first then allow yourself to take in the situation.
If however, you’ve already found yourself immersed in habitual, reactionary behavior you can still find the breath and pull back for a moment or two… regroup and reassess before diving back in.
Cultivate an awareness of your breath both on the mat and off the mat so that it may be readily available to you in response to life’s heightened moments and situations when they arise.
And as always remember… “It’s only yoga!”
“When you lose touch with your inner stillness, you lose touch with yourself. When you lose touch with yourself, you lose yourself in the world.” ~Eckhart Tolle