Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about the concept of “on-the-mat, off-the-mat” (perhaps because I was recently chided for acting very “off” the mat): meaning, what we learn about ourselves and practice on our yoga mats while in class should start to transfer into our daily lives, and how we behave and react off the mat. I’ve been realizing that this is where most of us need to do the bulk of our “work”, myself included. Nobody is perfect, but we all can benefit from observing our own behavior and making conscious and intentional changes.
Let’s play a little game called “Never Have I Ever”. For those of you who haven’t been to a teenage sleepover, it goes like this: you put a finger down if you’re guilty of any of the following statements, and once all 5 fingers are down, well, let’s just say you’re not taking the lead here:
1) I’ve come to class huffing and puffing, totally out of breath, because I practically just ran over a small child in order to beat someone to a parking space outside the yoga studio.
2) I body-slammed into three people running up the hill and didn’t even bother to say excuse me, but instead swore under my breath at the innocent passerby’s as I picked up the speed so I wouldn’t walk in late to my favorite vinyasa class, only to burst in the door just as the teacher was blissfully chanting “om”.
3) I’ve sped like a crazed demon on the highway, enough to get my license revoked if pulled over, in order to make sure I was the first person to the 9:30am-once-a-month-super-crazy-advanced-three-hour-long-workshop held at a posh studio in New York City.
4) I’ve yelled at my toddler to stop nagging me and go find something else to do so I could do my Rodney Yee Power Vinyasa DVD in peace, promising to look at his special drawings that he made JUST for me, later.
5) I’ve forced and pushed my way into every single pose offered during class, because the person on the mat next to me looked perfect in all of them, and I didn’t want to look like I couldn’t “handle” the class (even though my back was screaming at me and my hamstrings were about to snap in half and give up entirely).
…okay, so maybe not all of these situations DIRECTLY apply to you, but, I’m sure that ALL of us have at least one little pinky finger bent shamefully down. I know I do (not the toddler one, but the huffing and puffing for sure)…
The point is, if we come into a yoga class with all this negative energy, we are going to transfer some of that into our practice on the mat. And then, even if we think we feel better after the class, we will unavoidably walk away with some of that energy still lingering in our bodies, and more importantly, in our spirits.
So, if we let our yoga practice become more “off-the-mat” focused , by remembering the tools we use as we do asanas, and how to apply them to our daily lives, we’ll notice a shift in our behaviors when we find ourselves in stressful or high-pressure situations. If we can all start by remembering the sheer power of the breath to calm and relax our bodies and emotions, to release tension and move energy, and the power of setting an intention for each and every one of our actions and choices, then we will all make huge strides in our practice off the mat.
Nobody gets it right every time, that is called sainthood. But we can all strive to do it better the next time around. That’s the beauty of life, we get second chances. The universe is CONSTANTLY giving us opportunities to get it right the next time – we don’t have to fall into the same patterns over and over again. We can choose to make changes in our lives, and in the way we act and react, and we can use the tools we learn in yoga class on our mats to get us there.
Here’s to practicing! Cheers!