Off the Mat: Using Yoga to Navigate Through the Messy Stuff
Updated: Aug 3
It has been about 3 years since I was really active in my yoga practice and boy have I missed it. Prior to becoming a mother 3 years ago, I spent much of my spare time at the studio or on my mat at home. Now that I am starting to regain some semblance of "me time" back, I realized just how much I have missed my practice and how much I need it in my life.
Any life transition (new job, break up, becoming a parent, loss, moving, etc.) naturally can throw us off our usual course. In efforts to stay afloat and just survive, we can easily lose sight of ourselves. This can be a gradual loss (like a slow leak in the gas tank of your car) or a dramatic one (like the rug was ripped out from under you). Ironically, we often let go of what we need for our survival in order to make room for the energy to manage what needs to happen.
I let go of my yoga practice once I entered into motherhood. And that is OK. But now, the Universe has led me back to the mat and with that I feel more whole and my heart feels at home. Everything that happens on the mat can flow into my life off the mat, if I allow it. Three months ago I relocated my private practice to a beautiful office space directly above a yoga studio. It was kismet. I joke that I manifested it. (I did, actually). I made a vision board of what I wanted to create with the words "Make It Happen" right at the center of it.
I call it my sanctuary and hope that it is also a sanctuary for my clients. Reintegrating yoga back into my life is like having a spirit-cleansing heart-to-heart conversation with my soulmate. The kind of connection you feel when you fall in love for the first time or what I would imagine after attending a Tony Robbins event. Its addicting. Introspective. Rejuvenating. Intoxicating. Nourishing. Supportive. Fire-starting.
In reflecting on this shift from what needs to happen to what I need to allow to happen, here are 5 five lessons that yoga has been teaching me on and off the mat:
1) MEET YOURSELF WHERE YOU ARE AT:
Some days I don't have the energy. Some days I feel like a warrior goddess. No matter where I am at in my head-space or body-space, I show up. I show up. And I show up, non-judgmentally. There is no room for the self-defeating chatter when you are in Warrior II. When we show up for ourselves without the criticism and with loving kindness, the challenges of living flow a lot easier.
2) ALWAYS COME BACK TO YOUR CENTER:
Even if you are new to yoga, most people are familiar with tree pose. It is when you stand on one foot and kind of make a figure 4 shape with your legs. It can be very challenging. People fall over. I have fallen over. And that's OK. You get back up. But what stands out the most to me is that after some practice, that I am able to maintain better balance. I may waiver to the left or right but I pick a focus point in front of me and use that as my "center." And that keeps me balanced and centered. So think of what is your "center" in your life? When the storms are swaying your tree, what is your central line? What helps you back up and keeps you balanced? Unconditional self-love needs to be part of that answer.
3) BODY HONOR AND APPRECIATION:
As a psychotherapist (and a human being) I have never come across a client who has not had some form of body shaming. We have ALL BEEN THERE. As I fall back in love with yoga, what I am recognizing is that is allows for a powerful shift from "what is not" about the body to "what it is and what it capable of." I can choose to focus on my short legs being "not long enough" or how their strength allows me to balance in Warrior III like a torpedo moving through the obstacles of life.
4) YOU CAN MANAGE AND WORK THROUGH DISCOMFORT:
I used to do Bikram yoga. Religiously. If you are not familiar with it, it is 90 minutes of very structured and intentional poses in a 105 degree room at 60% humidity. It is not for everyone. I had a past instructor who would not allow us to wipe our sweat from our faces/bodies during the entire 90 minutes. It was militant. I was pissed. I felt like I was not in control. But then I became curious and tried to make meaning out of it. And what I learned from that was that 1) when you don't wipe your sweat things get really slippery 2) You need to be exponentially more focused and intentional in your practice or else you will fall on your face or injure yourself. (side note: I fell on my face a few times. And I got back up.) and 3) When you feel out of control, this is the perfect time to redirect control. I learned that I can triage the discomfort (of the heat, of the sweat) and focus on my intention. It brings to mind one of my favorite quotes "You can tolerate any HOW if you have a WHY". While I am not doing Bikram again (yet), I have become super drawn to hot yoga. Which is yoga in a warm room. Warm enough to sweat. So, ask yourself, what is your WHY and imagine all the smelly, slippery sweat of life's mess pooling at your feet as you focus on your intention. What you focus on expands. Remember that. Believe that. Live that.
5) GAIN A SENSE OF MASTERY:
Relish in the struggle. Embrace your imperfection. I recently started learning how to do headstands and even signed up for a 2-hour yoga inversion workshop (bring it!). I can't stand on my head....yet. This is what I am learning to love about this aspect of my practice. The "yet." The persistence of learning a new skill. The (again) non-judgement that I "can't do it" and instead shifting focus to the "yet" and visualizing how bad-ass I will feel once I learn how to do this. If you believe it, if you envision it, you will achieve it. You can MAKE IT HAPPEN. Allow this to carry over into all corners of your life. When you say " I can't" to yourself, add that small but SIGNIFICANT "yet."
Connect with what ignites you. Claim it as your own. Enter into it, non-judgmentally and show up. Relish in the struggle. Find purpose in the pain and remember that there beauty, strength and intention in life's mess.life'non-judgmentally and show up.