Sunday, March 5, 2017

Sunday Soul Writes #1: Meeting Myself on the Mat

The yoga mat, that is!

For a few years now, I have been practicing what professional yogi's refer to as gentle yoga.  You know, the poses that allow me to stretch my muscles (and gradually get in better shape) without leaving me feeling like a wobbly bowl of jello once I complete my usual 20 minutes.  I'm not knocking on more strenuous yoga poses, I just know myself well enough to know that handstands aren't within my comfort (or ability) just yet.  And whether or not they will ever be really isn't the issue either.

So what is the issue, you may ask?  It simply is the quiet found within the time I spend on my yoga mat.  It is about the solitude.  About calming my thoughts, paying attention to my body, and just spending a mere few moments catching my breath....and breathing.

At first when I began my yoga practice, I created a stiff, unbending regiment of poses (and reps per pose) and would take great pains to assure that I had a certain amount of time to give to my practice (twenty or thirty minutes), which is sort of hard to do if you are a stay-at-home/work from home, homeschooling mother.

What I'm trying to say is, that I took the practice so seriously that I failed to understand that the meaning of yoga is not about minute marks and un-bendable rituals, but rather about relaxation and self care.

Over time, as I integrated the practice of my yoga stretches into my busy everyday schedule, I did deviate from my first-perceived notion that in order to do my stretches everything had to be perfectly in order.  Also, over time, I realized that sometimes it wasn't even about the stretches, but about the quality time with myself that I spent on my mat.  And it wasn't even about how long I spent on the mat....some days five quiet minutes of butterfly pose was every bit as beneficial as a 12 pose yoga sequence.

I enjoyed my quiet yoga days just as much as I did my more physically strenuous ones, until one day I flipped to the Gaia channel on my Roku and stumbled upon a video about the basics of meditation.  It was then I realized I could incorporate a sense of mindfulness into my yoga practice and couple that with five minutes of meditation (usually at the end of my yoga poses) during corpse pose.  And so began my daily yoga/meditation practice...and my life hasn't been the same since.

Oh, I am not saying it's a miracle cure for your life.  Or that everything will become crystal clear and perfect if you begin a daily regiment of yoga and meditation.  Life is a messy sort of art and will never be perfect, try as we may, but it has worked small miracles in my life.  The miracle of inner peace.  The ability to think more deeply.  The quiet time for reflection has allowed me to learn so much about myself.  I have also discovered a strong inner well.  A reservoir from which I am able to pull new material for my creative endeavors. Not to mention the physical changes in my body.  Yoga is amazing for sculpting and toning.  And it teaches you to breathe.

I almost liken a yoga/meditation/mindfulness regiment to a hot soak at the end of the day.  It washes away the old, clears think space of random and useless thoughts, it's also a wonderful place to bring your emotions and your spirit for a deep cleanse.  With as little as two or three stretches and five minutes of quiet time, your complete day - your whole mindset - can be improved and rearranged.

Trust me, I do it everyday!

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