Life on and off the Yoga mat

Hello and welcome to your practice. Get comfortable, begin to connect with your mat. Close your eyes, take a refreshing, deep inhalation and fully exhale anything that is not serving you today. Begin to notice and connect with your breath. Feel the rise and fall of your chest, notice the small movements of your clavicle bones as you breathe. Perhaps feel the coolness of the air as it enters your nose, feel your belly expand with oxygen. Notice your spine. Sit tall. Open your Heart. Begin to connect with the earth beneath you and perhaps at this time you would like to set an intention for your practice, a positive word, a prayer, a thought- something that you can return to if your mind begins to wander. Come back to the intention you have set for your practice if your mind becomes busy and return inward to yourself.

These were the words of my yoga class. These were the words I loved to speak as I prepared everyone for stillness and for physical, emotional, and spiritual connection. I used to teach yoga. In a studio, in a class, in person. No mask, no need for social distance. Just a simple yoga class, once a week, every Thursday night to beautiful, sweet souls looking to unwind, reset, and journey inward. I loved the ability to create an environment of stillness and peace. I loved setting the environment with candles, soft music, essential oils, Palo Santo. I loved creating a special yoga sequence for my class and hand pick songs from beginning to end to correlate with the class. Everyone could pick a prayer card or a positive affirmation card they could place on the top of their mat if they chose. The class started slow in order to ground, to connect to the space and disconnect from the outside business of the world. Starting slow, warming up, tapping into our physical bodies while paying attention to our breath and paying attention to how our body was feeling. Some days a little tighter, some days a little more limber. As we moved and flowed on our mats I could sense a shift in the room, a release of built up energy, a peace. I could hear people breathing as they connected to their body, I could hear sighs of recognition. I feel you, I see you. I'm here for you. And just like that an hour would flash by and back down to the mat. Resting, breathing, taking in the charge of the class.

Sweet Savasana, or resting pose. I gently awakened the class with sound bowls, koshi chimes, a light ding of Tibetan bowls and together we shared warm tea.

I loved teaching in this space. I loved and adored my students that came faithfully every Thursday night. A group of souls all seeking something good, something positive, something uplifting. Together, a group filled with beautiful people, all seeking something more than what the outside world could provide. A small moment in time to disconnect from the world.

So how do we take yoga off the mat and incorporate into our everyday lives? For some this connection and recognition is a process. Practicing yoga molds a deeper sense awareness to our physical and emotional bodies to include clarity, understanding, sincerity, love, and compassion for ourselves as well as others. Learning to listen to that still small voice within ourselves no matter how loud things can get within ourselves or how loud and crazy the outside world gets. Learning how to say no, creating safe spaces and boundaries. Imaging your space on the yoga mat as a place of peace and tranquility and also imagining you can create this space any where you go, not just on a yoga mat. The ability to return to stillness as the environment swirls around you. Understanding how your breath can become an internal compass of when to stop and listen. Is your breath rapid and short for example undertime of stress, or is it slow, deep and steady when we are rested and relaxed? Can we take what we have learned in our yoga class and apply these ancient teachings to everyday life? Absolutely, and yes we can.

If you can imaging your yoga mat as a safe place, a place of stillness in the storm, a place to release, a mat of love and protection, your very own sacred space where you are the owner and you are allowed to change the rules according to how you feel. Perhaps some days your energetic, free, open to receive and give and other days you are more reserved, perhaps more heavy, more tired, and in a place where conservation of energy is most important. This is where you the owner can modify where you see fit. This is yoga on and off the mat. This is where recognition and awareness comes in to play. Listening to your body, listening to your breath, creating healthy boundaries, learning when to say no.

In my years of practicing yoga I've been able to journey further inward and really listen to what exactly I need while also understanding that what I need is subject to change depending on what is going on in my life. A little stress guides me towards a gentle more restorative yoga practice. While a need to discharge much unneeded, unwanted energy drives me towards a more physically engaging yoga practice. While some days its just showing up to my mat for a few rounds of cat/cow and quietly resting in child's pose, just to breath, close my eyes and create a space of awareness for whatever is going on. Yoga has been so much more than just a physical practice, for me, its provided me with the ability to journey inwards, dive deeper and recognize the yearnings of my spiritual and physical body. Today my yoga practice has shifted me towards the safety of my spirituality. Today I feel the need to sit in stillness and just breathe. Praying, meditating, journaling. Today I crave deeper connections not only to my faith, but to my home, my husband, my family, my close friends. In a world full of change and resistance to that change. I find stability in simplicity. I find peace in a smile.

Seasons change, life changes. We grow, we release, we shed old leaves just as the trees in the fall and sprout new growth of experience in the Spring as to guide and protect us through out the year. Change is inevitable, learning how to stand strong and still while in a state of peace and acceptance for the things we cannot change, embracing ourselves and others with grace and compassion.

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