Bravery | Yoga Off the Mat
“Our yoga practice exists in a very interconnected existence; you, I, water, trees, cars, winds, and breath.” - Michael Stone, The Inner Tradition of Yoga
I read this book a few years ago, when I was working to deepen my physical practice. Up to that point, I’d spent so much time focused on how to perfect the poses on my mat that I didn’t realize yoga transcends further than the mat and exists everywhere around us; like Michael alludes to in this quote.
I’ve spent the years since, researching and exploring how the physical practice of yoga can live off the mat and has the power to transform, change and shape people and their lives.
Something I’ve been exploring lately is the idea of how our physical yoga practice helps us create a deeper, more positive and understanding connection with ourselves, which empowers us to be a better person for those around us; and the world.
This new moon, there are two questions to think about:
1) how do you take your physical yoga practice off the mat?
2) How do the practices and lessons you take off the mat empower you to be a better person for yourself and those around you?
I checked in with one of my yogi friends, Tara (who is currently taking her yoga teacher training in Bali and has spent a lot of time navigating the connection with herself and those around her) to share her thoughts.
KB: What have you realized about yourself through your physical yoga practice?
TH: I am a ‘feelings’ person. I experience the world around me through my feelings, and they can be overwhelming at times. In recent years I’ve learned there’s a term for this: a highly sensitive person. 15-20% of the population are this way. My brain has the habit of processing information and reflecting it more deeply than average. I pick up on subtleties that go seemingly unnoticed by others and I feel sensations very acutely. My yoga practice has helped me connect to this part of myself and allowed me to cope with it.
KB: How has your physical practice changed how you view yourself, and live your life?
TH: I truly believe that without yoga, I never would have found a way to accept and manage my feelings. Every time I return to my mat, I’m reminded to breathe, feel, and notice my body and surrounding sensations. Spending an hour on my mat, listening to a thoughtful reading from a teacher, taking in the energy in a room full of kind people, improving upon a tough pose – has made me feel more connected to my true thoughts and feelings.
My practice has taught me to find softness in my strength and has given me permission to be the real me; both on and off the mat.
KB: What elements of your physical practices do you take off the mat and apply to your daily life?
TH: The gratitude I have cultivated through my practice is something I carry off my mat into daily life. One of the ethical principles of yoga is Santosha, or contentment. Yoga has allowed me to find deep contentment within myself and in every moment in my life- good and bad. I also practice Ahimsa, or non-violence. I remember to be gentle and kind with myself and my thoughts - especially when I’m having a tough day or a not-so-content moment – as well as with others.
KB: How do you share the lessons you learn on your mat, with others?
TH: I remember a yoga teacher saying, “breath deeper for yourself first, and then breath louder so your neighbours can hear you.” This didn’t resonate with me at first, but I’ve since realized how much my own practice both on and off the mat has the power to influence and positively impact others.
As I pursue joy in my own life, listen to my heart and confront the darkness (and the light) inside myself, I create the possibility to live genuinely into my life. This empowers me to share the same lessons with others around me, so I can support them to do the same. By breathing for myself, I breathe life into others. By being vulnerable, I liberate someone else to be vulnerable and authentic.
- Kailey Buchanan, Communication Specialist