On the Mat and Beyond

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What are your favorite excuses for not doing yoga?

Sickness, mental laziness, doubt, lack of enthusiasm, sloth, craving for sense pleasure, false perception, despair caused by failure to concentrate, and unsteadiness in concentration: these distractions are the obstacles to knowledge,” state the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali.

We all know the fabulous feeling of emerging from a yoga class being changed, energized and replenished. “Why don’t I do that at home? Why don’t I do that more often?” we often ask ourselves after we practice. An eternal question that even the ancient yoginis appear to have grappled with, as evidenced by the quote above.

So, what is the “juice” calling us to practice more regularly? Of course, there is the physical sensation – the fine feeling of integration and release that hums in our bodies after a good practice. But something deeper happens in a yoga class. Something beyond the physical. Something that compels us to take our minds into the mysteries of the body and the breath. We know that yoga isn’t always easy, that we sweat and meet our limitations again and again. That we encounter discomfort and impatience, along with moments of release and transcendence. And we want more.

I believe that what keeps us coming back to our practice, the fire behind the experience we want to have, is the sacred quality we sometimes taste when our spirit is clearly aligned with our bodies, breath and minds. It’s the feeling of our consciousness dancing, a teacher of mine once said. Of course, we want more of that!

There are many practical hints I could give you to get you on your mat. Create a space for practice. Start with only 5 minutes a day. Leave the practice wanting more so you can’t wait to practice again. Choose a pose and structure a practice around it. Lie in quiet stillness afterwards and let the practice integrate into your mind, body and spirit, becoming a part of you.

But the greatest encouragement I can give you is this: your own unfolding and evolving that happens during the precious time you spend in your yoga practice will benefit yourself and others in your life beyond what you can imagine. Step onto your mat, hold in your heart and mind your highest and clearest intention and let your true self dance.

Reprinted from the SYA Winter/Spring Newsletter 1998/1999.