I have a love/hate relationship with yoga. I generally love it, and have practiced in a haphazard way since my early twenties. When I remember to practice on a regular basis, my body and soul respond with flexibility and strength, resulting in a deeper level of peace and fulfillment. My stress and anxiety melt away. I breathe deeper, and the world looks brighter.
The hate part of my relationship occurs when I allow myself to lose the connection to my mat and put aside my yoga practice. For whatever reason, I will at some point become busy with other things and miss a day, which then becomes a week, then a month, then two. My rationale will be that I am either too tired, too busy, or too sore. Ironically, these are the very times in which I should focus on my practice the most. I know this. Yet somehow, I will justify putting it off.
It may take some time before I catch my pattern, but inevitably I will see my yoga mat standing in the corner and have that familiar “duh!” moment (not unlike Homer Simpson) in which I mentally slap my forehead and shake my head. How can I have forgotten? It’s as if I can hear my yoga mat laughing and shaking its own head at me, smiling in a knowing way as I unroll it and dust it off.
If you are like me, and run a similar pattern, you’ll know what I am talking about. While I know that yoga is non-judgemental, I still hear my own inner voice admonishing me for slacking off. But this does not bother me anymore. At one time, I would have been angry with myself for it, but as I’ve grown in my practice I have learned to let these feelings go. I no longer beat myself up for skipping practice, but rather smile as I admit my oversight. The first step in changing any pattern is to recognize it. The faster one does this, the easier it becomes to avoid repeating it.
So in an effort to reconnect with my practice I am sharing some of the reasons I both love/hate my yoga mat. You may have your own list – what we love and hate is often a reflection of ourselves, so consider how your feelings reflect where you are in your own practice. Here is my own list:
Top Reasons Why I Love/ Hate My Yoga Mat
- It is a mirror of my own mental state (good or bad). When I practice, I am able to focus on my inner state and discover the root of my feelings. Sometimes I realize that I have been on edge because of a situation that has been at the back of my mind. When I am calm, I am able to turn my attention inward. This can be both enlightening and empowering.
- I find tight muscles I didn’t know I had, and discover if I need a pedicure while in forward bend. It’s amazing how seldom we bend over as we get older! Yoga encourages me to stretch and bend in ways I don’t on a daily basis. I am often surprised at how my flexibility can change after time away from my mat. Luckily the same can be said once I return to it.
- I discover if I need to clean the floors again – especially that stubborn spot beneath the couch. Yoga provides new perspective. It can also be humbling. By looking at the world from different angles, we can remain modest and open to new ideas.
- My mat never judges me; it simply exists. I know my mat isn’t actually chiding me for losing touch with my practice, and that any voice I hear in my head is actually my own. Knowing this helps me to remember that being on my mat is a chance to put aside my ego and for a short time, to simply be.
- I start to see the world differently after a session. Whenever I am feeling challenged, yoga helps me to find a solution. Sometimes this is as simple as getting out of my own way. Breathing deeply in sync with your movements can quiet the mind and lessen stress and anxiety. Even a short 10-minute session can help increase feelings of positivity and relaxation. (Note: If you ever feel you are struggling in a pose, remember to smile! This will help to relax the face and jaw muscles; a common place of tension.)
- My mat both humbles and challenges me to realize my limitations, and then move beyond them. Never judge your own progress by comparing your ability to hold a pose with anyone else. We are each on our own journey, and must progress at our own pace. Yoga allows us to explore so much – starting inwardly with our own muscles and joints and where we feel pain/freedom of motion, to our emotional responses to these sensations, and ultimately how all of this affects our interactions with the world around us. Turning our attention inward allows us time for reflection and appreciation.
- Like a good friend, I know my mat is always there for me. Never judging the lapses in my practice, I know my mat will always welcome me back. It may take some time for me to find my way back, but I know it will always be there to support me when I do. And as I finally dust it off, clear a space and start unrolling it, I know I will hear a faint voice whispering with a smile “I knew you’d be back.”
Have a thought or comment to share? Drop me a line! I’d love to hear from you.