9 Lessons from the Mat
By Peggie Arvidson
9 Lessons from the Mat
If you’ve been reading along for any amount of time you know that I’m a big believer that life, or the Universe, likes to toss a few curveballs in from time to time to make sure we’re on our toes. How we deal with the curveballs is a big indicator of how well we deal with life in general.
No one gets out without dealing with uncomfortable and downright painful stuff. So-called “spiritual” people are not immune either. At the moment I have multiple friends dealing with a parent’s illness, facing scary issues with their children and addressing rifts in their personal relationships. Each of these people are good people. Each is dealing in their own way and some days are better than others. Yet everyone (myself included) seems to find the silver lining, recalibrating to the positive before long.
Coincidentally (or not) we all have a personal yoga practice.
While I’m not a yoga instructor, I have been practicing yoga somewhat faithfully for 12 years. That doesn’t make me a better yogi than anyone – if anything, it reminds me how important it is to get on my mat and practice.
Practicing yoga keeps me grounded, literally, and helps me find my balance when my life feels like it’s out of control.
Here are 9 things I’ve learned from my yoga practice in trying times.
- 1. Yoga doesn’t keep score. Showing up on my mat means just that – showing up. Yoga doesn’t keep a scorecard of how long it’s been since my last practice, nor does it care how wobbly or crabby I am. It’s just there, waiting to meet me. That gives me the freedom to be where I am and do whatever I can to find my center.
- 2. Yoga is a microcosm of my entire world. If I’m off balance on the mat, it’s a sure thing that I’m off balance in one or more areas of my life.
- 3. The only moment is now. There’s no way I can hold a crow pose if I’m focused on how I messed up in my tree pose. I can’t ever hope to stay present in downward dog if I’m obsessing about doing a handstand. Staying present gets me to pay attention and feel where I am in any moment. That’s a key to life too.
- 4. Every day is a do-over. Some days on the mat I can’t seem to find a single pose and swear I’ll never go to a class again. Yet I go back and start over. Every practice is a do-over. For that matter, every moment in every practice is a do-over.
- 5. When all else fails, find your breath. When my head takes over and I’m chastising myself in the middle of a practice, I know I can go back to following my breath. That gets me centered and I can move forward. The same is true when I’m rushing through my day and stressing out.
- 6. There is no competition. The only person you need to focus on in a yoga practice or in life is yourself. That’s not a selfish thing at all. When your eyes are on your mat (or life) you don’t have time to or energy to compare. When you are centered and calm, you are infinitely more present for everyone else in your life.
- 7. Listen to your own body. It’s easy to get caught up with what everyone else is doing in a yoga class (and at work, out with your friends and more). The key is to figure out where you are in the moment and do what is right for you to move forward. I’m not gonna lie, there are yoga classes when I spend three-quarters of my time in child’s pose because I can’t emotionally or physically manage more than that. Being okay in that moment is priceless.
- 8. Everything is connected. From breathing, to moving to standing still, everything you do on the mat is part of the whole practice. The whole practice is part of you. Taking that wisdom out into the world is a big part of what yoga is about.
- 9. Community leads to joy. I practice at yoga studios around the country. Wherever I go, I try to take a class. This means that I rarely know others in the class when I show up to practice. However, simply being in the community atmosphere, on my own mat, buoys me beyond the studio. There is something about being in a space with others, engaged with a singular focus, that creates joy.
If you’re in the middle of some trying times, I urge you to try a yoga class (if you’ve never been to one before, find a beginner friendly studio!) or head back to the mat if it’s been a while. Also, I would love to hear how your practice helps you, in good times and in bad. Contact me at PeggiePArvidson@gmail.com.