Every day I get yoga newsletters from around the planet in my email inbox. And, yep you got it-my inbox gets terribly full and usually I delete most of them. Sometimes I go on a marathon reading spree and it’s interesting to see there is often a pattern, unintended by the writers who are yogis from all different traditions with different intentions and very different tones.
One of the themes has been about burnout and how we’re all getting sick. I’m leaving that for another day. But recently lots of teachers have been writing about why we practice. Practice as in get on the mat when we’re not teaching and I’ve kinda been rolling that one around in my head and at one point I think I even promised a post on it someday.
So I’ve been thinking about why I practice. Recently someone asked me about what they assumed was my practice and it took me a very long time to understand her point. Finally I realized she thought I practice when I teach. To be sure I am on the mat and demonstrating poses, but that is not my practice. That is my work. My practice is when I’m alone with just my mat. My family may be meandering by and the dog may be at my feet, but in reality it’s just me and my mat.
I practice because no one knows me like my mat. On the mat I am acutely aware that my past and my future are meeting in this moment. I see the progress of my life, of my poses, and my practice all in that moment that I step on my mat. I stay in this moment with the awareness of all the paths, and the mat gives me the gift of presence.
I’ve mentioned before that my mat is old and scarred. It knows me like no other. It’s thin and doesn’t grip well anymore, but I can’t give her up. I got a new mat for Christmas and I use her. I keep her in my car for the classes I travel to, but for my regular classes I use my old trusted, blue true friend.
I practice for many many reasons. Most importantly I practice because the mat is where I first learned to know myself and is the place that always brings me back to myself. On the mat I can quiet the inner dialogue and just listen to my body. And that leads me to hear my heart. The mat lets me release my tension, pain and fear right into her. I can always have all that back if I need it, but I rarely do. The mat reminds me to stay in my life and let other people stay in theirs. The mat always loves me, comforts me and listens to me. The mat can be what I need whenever I need it and I can take that pressure off of the people and situations in my life.
The mat lets me be me. No apologies, excuses or denials. It’s just me. Certainly I practice because my muscles get stronger and leaner, because I’ve recently lost ten pounds, and because people keep asking how much I’ve lost. I like that I’m bendy and I feel pretty good in my body. I like that my mind can be calm if I’m consistent in my practice, but all of those wonderful things are by-products of the practice.
The real practice is about transformation, about connection and about my relationship with the universe. I practice for growth, for understanding, for peace and for love. I practice to be the best me I know how to be without the fear and confusion, pain and drama. I practice for me.
My practice is me. Some days I’m slow and gentle. Some days I weep. Some times I’m strong and fierce and some days I’m just getting by. The mat reminds me that the only person who matters in my life is me. That I am the one making my life difficult, that I am the one that judges the harshest and that I am the one that can love the fullest.
On the mat I am everything in one moment. I am Mom, wife, friend, yogi, sister, writer, cook, confidante, lover, gardner, daughter, realist, dreamer, business owner and crazy woman. I don’t know any place else that welcomes me, loves me, lets me be just like that with no apologies and with total acceptance.
That’s why I practice.