On the mat

Normally we take our experience on the mat and try to carry it over into how we deal with life. What with the teacher training and all, I’m working in the opposite direction a lot lately. It’s so easy to get happily lost in books and philosophy (soooo my happy place)… and just continue my regular mat practice. But the idea is to take concepts from the principles of yoga and look for ways to apply them to our physical practice as well.

The concepts I’m referring to are similar to universal principles we learn either in our respective religions or other practices in our families and communities, things like truthfulness, moderation, not stealing, nonviolence, and sharing. I’m not used to thinking about bringing these to my mat, but I’m game, since getting really good at these principles is just a fantastic idea.

Truthfulness

For me it means accepting the truth about how far I can go today. It’s especially easy to ignore boundaries when muscles are warm and the presence of other stronger and more flexible people pokes at my pride.

Time changes so many things (often for the better), but when that means unexpected limitations, it’s easy to blame the weather, the mat, the lighting, the music, and anything else that comes to mind and decide to push push push anyway, all in a pointless effort to escape the inevitable truth: today, right now, that’s just not something I can do.

Moderation

Normally I think of moderation in other things, like food and wine. For my practice on the mat moderation comes in choosing a more physically active practice more often and indulging less in quieter, stiller meditation and visualization.

It’s not that there can be too much meditation (especially for someone with a busy mind like me), but rather that there are only so many hours in the day. And I know the physical practice needs to be a higher priority for me right now.

Not stealing

Non-stealing is a tricky one simply because I like to practice alone most of the time. But if I consider the moments when I am in the studio sharing space with others, then this is about giving space for others to maneuver, making sure my devices are turned off, and keeping my eyes on my own mat to make sure I’m not stealing anyone’s moment of peace.

I’m very fortunate to control my work life and space, but for most people in any given yoga class, this is their break from everyone and everything.

Nonviolence

This one goes hand-in-hand with truthfulness for me. On my mat the way I practice nonviolence is by not pushing beyond my limitations. And it’s tempting sometimes. I’ve forced my shoulders despite rotator cuff problems in one on them, because I just really wanted the extra stretch. And I regretted it for days.

Sharing

Again, this applies to days I’m doing yoga in shared spaces. Just like it’s important to give enough room so others can practice, sharing is about not taking up too much room, or using more props than necessary.

The props are not a problem since I usually prefer not to use any, but I’m used to having all the space I want, so sharing for me is about making sure that I’m leaving plenty of room for everyone else.

 

OK, that’s it for today. This is a big point of focus for me, so if you have other ideas, please share them in the comments. It’s helpful. Thanks!

 

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