Welcome back to my world of Yoga discovery hehe.
Today I have a post to share with you that is also a part of my Yoga Teacher Training – lessons from the mat. I have 8 little nuggets of insight I have learnt through the act of Yoga. Its pretty incredible to see that by just deciding to place myself on a piece of foam this entirely new world opens up. You learn a lot about yourself during those moments and here are some of mine.
By stepping onto your yoga mat, your giving yourself permission to be wholly and solely on that mat. No where else. It is a space with four corners that you can occupy and create and breathe into. It is completely your own and you can make it what you please. It is grounding. It is liberating. It is freeing. I find one of the best poses to really help me arrive on my mat is Tadasana / Mountain Pose. I recently was at work and someone asked me what Tadasana was as they had heard the name, I explained it was standing tall, just like a mountain. They laughed and said there is a yoga pose for just standing there? To that I responded ok hop up! I want you to think about grounding through the four points on the soles of your feet, your skin bones lifting, thighs turning slighting in and up, hips over your knees, heart over your hips, rib tips rounding down and in, collar bone wide, chin slightly tucked, back of the head straight, jaw soft …. and breathe!!!! They were astounded! So much thought into standing?! YES! This stopping and focusing on Tadasana really helps me to become present.
I’ve developed an awareness of who I am, where I am and what’s best for me. On the mat this means alignment and ensuring I am placing myself in the best possible position to gain the best possible reward. Virabhadrasana Two / Warrior Two really reveals this to me. I need to be aware of my foot placement, ensure my knee isn’t going out over my toes, that my tailbone in tucking in and down, that my chest is lifted and my shoulders have distance from my ears. I also really become aware of my back arm as often I think its in alignment with my front arm but its not! It’s also taught me to be more aware of how I am placed in daily life too. How people perceive me and what situations I want to be placing myself in. I have the awareness now that ultimately I make the choices about what I want to do with my time.
By choosing to be present I am committing to the time on my mat. This means for me I am agreeing to really get into each posture. This clear focus has given me strength to know that I can do the postures, and hold them, and breath in them. This strength has come from a mental perspective with my internal self talk. It has then moved into the physical body as I can see the change in my ability to move and hold and push and pull – my muscles are stronger for it. Chaturanga Dandasana / Low Plank as pictured above is one pose that has really given me strength in my arms, breath and mentally. My utilising the breath on the exhale down, tucking my elbows in and back and being strong through my core I really feel this pose giving me benefit. This knowledge of my strength has given me the confidence to utilise this in my daily life too. I know I’m strong enough to have tough conversations. to speak my mind, to try things that scare me and to push myself to create a life I truly love.
Ahhh the amazing freedom that being on the mat gives. It’s as though I give myself permission to just BE. I’ve carved out the time, the space and the intention to practise so I can set aside all my thoughts, any to dos and allow myself to really take in the practice and just enjoy the movement and breath. Urdhvamukhasvasana / Upward Facing Dog pose really gives me that feeling of freedom, as do a lot of chest openers I find. By lifting up through my chest, making my foundation of my legs solid and strong, exhaling and keeping my core strong I feel like I’m free – cracking a smile in this pose feels amazing too!
Yoga is very humbling. When you really start to stop and notice how your body moves, you learn your limits and to be honest it did take me awhile to learn to accept and be ok with where I am at in certain poses. I now know it is more beneficial for my body to keep a slight bend in my knees in adho mukha svanasana / downward dog rather than try and push my hamstrings so much that I gain no reward in my back. Accepting who I am has been a huge lesson for me, its one of the biggest things I’ve been able to incorporate into all parts of my world. I’ve learnt its ok to accept who you are but still be striving for things you want.
This one is huge. Who would have thought that Yoga teaches you to breathe! The breath is the only thing that you ALWAYS have with you, no matter what for all of life. Its critical in so many ways, and learning how to care, nurture and utilise it is something I am SO grateful for. My breath on the mat guides me, it tells me before anything else when I can push myself and when to back off. I always find having that time at the start of a class to really focus in on the breath and find how your feeling that day through your breath really helps me to know how to approach the class. It also helps as a guide in postures that you hold, like Kapotasana / Pigeon Pose. If I don’t follow my breath and breathe into this pose I cant relax or really be in the pose. When I listen to my breath I find the point I’m at for that day and relax into it and I find that allows me to go further. This is a big thing I use in day to day life now too – when I feel stressed I stop and focus on my breathing. The ability that a few deep breaths have on calming me is astounding!
There is something about the actual process of rolling out my mat and stepping onto it, placing my hands onto it that is so comforting to me. Its this space that is so my own, and I’ve been kind enough to create it to be a space of understanding, kindness and love so whenever I go there I get this big sigh of relief – ahhhhh – all is ok. Poses like Balasana / Child Pose and Supta Matsyendrasana / supine twist really give me that feeling of comfort and care for the body. The lesson I’ve taken from this is that if I can create this space of care for myself then I can take it with me anywhere and I can pass it on to others in my daily life.
Yoga is a practice, which is something that I love. Its not something to be perfected, there is no ending point, no date to submit the final assessment. If I choose to, it will be with me for life. Its something I can grow in, learn from and continue always.
The biggest thing I’ve learnt from being on the mat is that what I’m learning about myself, and that I can take it with me and apply it all to everywhere else in life.