I used to laugh when I heard the phrase ‘take your yoga off the mat’. It sounded so cheesy! But now I understand the thought behind it, and while I shy away from hackneyed yoga phrases I have started to ‘take my yoga off the mat’, or more accurately realize how everything I do is a practice. A conscious action, alignment and habit that slowly brings out my best or worst aspects. I realized my whole life is a sequence of movements with patterns, intentions, and results woven into them. And the more I practice these movements (physically or mentally) the stronger they become. Sounds a lot like yoga!
I then realized how my attitude affected my practice. When I started yoga I was 25 years old and living in Hawaii. I was super-charged and very fired up physically speaking. I was surfing and running daily, and practicing Bikram and going to circuit class (back to back!) twice weekly. I was totally driven to ‘get’ the pose, to ‘get’ that next wave, to ‘get’ to the next mile marker on my run. When I practiced my violin I would beat myself up repeating the same phrase over and over until I had it right. Essentially they were all the same practice! Not to say being goal oriented is bad. Looking back, it was just a touch out of balance. It was not a way of life that I could sustain and remain healthy. And thus, under the kick-ass veneer, it was unhealthy. I have ventured the other way as well, blown off practicing, or making excuses to come out of the pose early. And I must admit, these were times when I was pretty slack in most other areas of life.
We are always in a state of finding balance and re-balancing. Perfecting equilibrium, and gaining greater foundation in that optimal state, whatever that is for you as an individual.
Having experienced this deeper meaning of yoga for myself, I sometimes bring this to my classroom. And sometimes *sometimes* this can lead to an insight into life long patterns. And sometimes there’s just a knee issue or tight hip and nothing more!
I offer this way of looking at your practice for you… if you see bigger themes in your life reflected in your asana practice, it is a sign that you are more deeply getting to know yourself, and you are developing the ability to self examine with an honest, compassionate eye. But I am not going to project assumptions on you from the outside. Ultimately you are your own greatest teacher!
I, 13: tatra sthitau yatnah abhyasah
“Of these two,
is the continuous struggle
to become firmly established
in the stable state
of the true Self.” -The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali