3 Things to keep in mind as you step onto your yoga mat this new year

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jaime | posted January 10, 2018
  1. When you find yourself comparing yourself to others- ask yourself: are you creating awareness or judgment?

There will be classes where all the puzzle pieces of your day have fallen into perfect alignment. You step on to your mat nearly stress-free, feeling open because you chose salad over French Fries. Your hips and shoulders for once do what you want them too and your savasana was as beautiful and as blissful as it “should” be.

But then the next day, your car won’t start, you literally ate 3 doughnuts and 1 bag of chips for lunch. You skid into the class with a minute to spare. Then the teacher is leading you through movement before you have had enough time to actually “let go of your day” and  “drop-in”. Forget about holding tree pose, it won’t happen if your life depended on it and your savasana is a mess of what you forgot, what you said, and what you need. You may leave the class feeling a tad bit better than you walked in but not compared to what the class was the day before.

On a day like the later, instead of judging yourself on your diet, or that tree pose, or your chaotic savasana, instead create awareness. On the former day, perhaps the teacher instructed a specific breathing technique or body scan that allowed you to reach that blissful savasana that you didn’t have on day two. Perhaps this is something you can incorporate into your practice when your monkey mind is in full swing. Create awareness of these small things. The little things that make your practice just the tiniest bit more in tune with your needs.

  1. Just because you can do that super cool looking posture one day, does not mean you can do it the next.

I had this idea when I went into my teacher training that along with finding myself and learning the path of spiritual living and all that jazz, I would learn all these cool postures I saw on Instagram. I believed I would be able to find the strength to hold these postures, the openness to bend and the knowledge on how to do it safely. But instead, what I learned was how to CREATE the strength to ONE DAY hold, cultivate openness to EVENTUALLY bend and the knowledge of how to do it safely when my body was ready.

One of the biggest learning moments was when we were exploring some of the more advanced postures. We just came in from lunch, and one teacher asked the other teacher (who I had already placed on the “her body can do anything” pedestal) if she could demonstrate some intricate posture. The second teacher gave a small laugh and said: “I am definitely not open enough for that right now.”

Right now. In that moment, her body was not able to move into something I had thought would be incredibly easy for her to do. In one class, you may be led through a series of movements that open and prepare your body for something the next day’s class will leave your body completely unprepared for. That heart opening posture that required 20 minutes of prep in yesterdays class is not going to come easy when you have been working on hips before.

  1. Do not step onto your mat thinking your problems will be solved.

I thought when I stepped onto my mat for the very first time all the worlds problems could be solved on that rectangle. And I was severely disappointed. I did not, nor have I ever solved pretty much any problem on my mat. What I solved instead was my approach.

I learned I was stronger than I thought I was, and not nearly as open as I thought I was. But there was curiosity as to why these were my truths

I learned how to recognize what the beginning stages of anxiety felt like because in yoga I had no anxiety. I was too busy focusing on timing my breath with movement to have any anxiety.

I learned how to calm the storm of racing thoughts that fueled my anxiety when my to-do list got too big or a life event just too much to handle. Because if my world’s problems could wait just one hour to finish a yoga class then in that moment of chaos I could stop the other hundred things going on and deal with the task in front of me. The rest could wait just 1 hour.

I learned to be patient with myself and with others. 7 years ago, when I stepped onto my mat, I was not nearly as strong or as open physically as I am today. I still have lots of room to grow, but I am only comparing myself to, well myself. It takes more time for me to grow my strength than some of my peers. It takes more time for others to become open and maybe there are some things, such as ideas, goals or beliefs that are just not accessible to everyone.

I learned as a student, I am responsible for what is happening on my mat and no one else’s just as I am responsible for what happens in my life and no one else’s. If I continue to show up, doing the best that I can, that’s all I can really do.

Jaime McKeag Reber