Off the Mat

People come to yoga for many different reasons – perhaps it begins as a desire to get fit or more flexible, a desire to learn how to relax and breathe properly, or a search for something deeper in this world, that often feels so surface level.

Many of us have found yoga as an outlet for stress, a way to release tension as well as strengthen and stabilize physically.

As you continue down the path of yoga, you will soon come to discover that aside from the initial reasons for jumping on the mat, there are a host of other benefits that arise that you previously had not considered.

I am thankful that after my 10 day Immersion at Amrit Yoga Institute, I am really beginning to understand how yoga has affected me emotionally, spiritually and mentally. And I am thankful that yoga has gradually taught me so many lessons in mindfulness – even if I was not always fully aware of them.

So today, I am sharing with you some of the lessons that I have taken from my yoga practice that have helped me both on my mat and in my life:

Gratitude. Even when we are holding plank for 60 seconds (secretly cursing our teacher’s name) we know in our hearts just how grateful we are to them for holding this space in such away we can find our resistance. This most of us a drawn to yoga after all—to strengthen our bodies and soften our hearts.

Being Present. Surely one of the biggest gifts of yoga is that it shows us the gap that lies between being present and not. In those moments of presence on our mat we just flow, and we tap into a place of such ease and spaciousness. To be present is to be in life—so consciously absorbed in the moment  When we live life in such a way, it is our chance to show the world that love, and in turn they are invited to reciprocate.

Awareness. Yoga has helped me to become more aware of my body and my thoughts. As much as yoga can take me into meditation, I still find that my thoughts will become loud at times in my practice.

I am more aware of the self talk that filters through when I am struggling. There have been so many times where I have entertained these negative conversations in my head but with each practice I have found that I am better able to just be a witness and not a participant in them.

I have found my breath is most helpful to separate the negative mind chatter from what is actually going on in my heart and body. My mind chatter will convince me all sorts of things, but if I breathe and open my heart I am better able to fully experience all the sensations of energy that my practice offers.

Authenticity. There is no where to hide on your yoga mat. Even if we dress in a manner we think will portray us in a more attractive light, in the end—when we are sweating it out on the mat alongside everyone else—we can only go as far as our own bodies and minds will allow us to do in that moment. Just as we can’t hope to see our yoga practice evolve if we are inauthentic, this too shines true in our life

Listen To Your Body. In yoga if your back is hurting, you don’t want to go deep into a standing back bend and risk further injury. You have to listen to your body and respect how you feel. I find this true in my life too, I try to align with my body and it’s needs. If I feel exhausted or burned out, I try to give myself some extra rest and rejuvenate. Be aware of what your body is telling you.

Yoga is an inside story, and no matter how far your head is from touching your knee, if you can’t soften right where you are, you will suffer.

Find your edge and explore it. On the yoga mat, we find the edge: comfort/discomfort; breathing/not breathing; present/checked out. Is this too much/too little? How do I make that call?

In daily life, we’re often faced with choices that involve edges: react/stay present; resist/connect; tighten/relax; see limits/find alternatives. Instead of checking out, stay with that edge and explore it. You’ll increase awareness, power and presence.

Leaning Into Discomfort. In our physical practice it is the postures we find most challenging that offer us the chance for growth. We look for our edge—that point in Utkatasana where we are in our awkward seat just enough to begin to feel some discomfort and work through it.

Accepting the moment & let go of expectations. I used to go to my yoga class with the mindset that I would embody each asana to the fullest expression – moving into every posture with perfect intention, strength and energy. I wanted to achieve perfection in everything I did and I set expectations for myself.

At this time, I wasn’t truly accepting the moment because I was swept up by the expectation of how my class should feel, rather than simply acknowledging the various feelings that would come up throughout my practice.

By easing into a space where I no longer hold onto expectations, I find that I can move through each moment without judgment, but with observation. And even when the experience unpleasant, just like in life, it is a reminder that I need to take the time to sit with this discomfort and breathe through it.

Remember to Breathe. When I was initially introduced to yoga I was experiencing anxiety and depression. I was fearful and worried all of the time, which created a tremendous amount of stress. The stress that I was experiencing based on the fear and anxiety was affecting my breathing and I often felt out of breath. Discovering mindful breathing in yoga and consciously slowing down my breath throughout the day helped me learn to manage my anxiety.

It’s so simple but has huge impact! Take some deep breaths during the day & see how quickly you can regain some focus and energy or even calmness. We usually take small, shallow breaths. When we take deeper, slower breaths, there’s a change in our bodies on a deep, cellular level. We can help to change our moods anytime with breathing.

 

What have you experienced on your yoga mat that has shifted your perspective on the way you go about your day? How does doing yoga make you feel spiritually or mentally?

 

With a Grateful Heart,

sam_signiture

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