What brings you onto your mat?
It was a cold, foggy and frosty morning this morning. Monday morning, and as I was preparing for my vinyasa flow class this morning; I was wondering, what brings you to the mat? What are the things that motivate you to either roll out your mat at home, or book up and come along to a class? And what are the excuses you give yourself that prevent you from doing this?
I find that a lot of people start yoga for the physical. It maybe that they feel the need to stretch, maybe to complement other forms of "exercise" they do, maybe to counteract a sedentary career, or a long time commuting / driving each day....and those that stay find that they get so much more out of it on all levels. There is a lot of focus in the media at the moment on stress and so I also get a lot of enquiries from people who feel stressed, who are always busy and who start to come to yoga for an oasis of calm, for a space to de-stress in their otherwise busy lives. I found that when I started yoga, I was still so switched onto London busyness - that the idea of sitting still and meditating was alien for me - and a vigorous flow class, synchronising the breath with movement and having to concentrate on where to put my arms and my feet, and other parts of my body became my moving meditation, and my way to switch off and take my attention on the inside. By moving my body, it allowed my mind to become still.
Why do I practice yoga and why do I teach yoga? I do so for so many reasons. I love the way it makes me feel alive, I love how when I'm doing my own practice or when I'm in a class as a student, I love how it allows me to become friends with my body and to become intimately familiar with it. I love the feeling of being embodied and feeling the energy move through me. I love noticing where I feel heavy and where I feel light, where I feel constricted and where I feel open.
Also, in the past, yoga has been my therapy. There have been times when I have arrived at class in tears, been in a not so resourceful frame of mind, feeling hopeless and have found sanctuary on my mat and have left the class with a new perspective, a feeling of hope and trust and faith. The "thing" that is going on on the outside may not have changed but my relationship to it and my perspective has.
There have also been times when I have found the clarity to make life changing (and smaller) decisions when on my mat and not "thinking." My yoga practice allows me to work through my emotions, to accept the ones that are bubbling up and not to try to push them away, or hide them or use positive psychology to transform them. I love the way how a pigeon pose or a deep backbend can bring all those emotions to the surface and make tears appear from nowhere.
I love it when a class "colours outside the lines" or goes outside the box and I give myself the permission to find a sense of expansion and possibility and move beyond the limited self. I love the way I find a deeper sense of who I am and why I am here in my yoga practice.
I love the magic, inspiration and intrigue it allows me to use to navigate my way through life.
I have lover archetype high in my personal makeup and so I am passionate about a lot of things. Yoga is one of them and after being a late discoverer of yoga, I now say it is one of the most important parts of my life!!
The benefits of yoga are cumulative, you will notice a difference from your very first class or experience, and the more you make yoga part of your life, the more benefits you will begin to notice. Yoga is most beneficial when it is practised regularly and consistently - not as an intense 3 weeks, then a gap of 3 weeks then back to it.....and yoga doesn't just happen in the asana on the mat!
There is no pre-requisite to starting yoga, you don't have to be flexible, all you need to do is show up. As I teacher, I also say: bring a smile and the ability to not take ourselves too seriously too.
Pease do let me know - what makes you get on your mat, what brings you to yoga?