As I’ve mentioned, recently I’ve been craving being on my yoga mat and have decreased my running mileage a bit before I get ready to start my fall marathon training. Instead of forcing a running related post I figured I’d go with what I’m feeling and talk yoga a bit with another “Thoughts From My Yoga Mat” post.
(*You can read the first Thoughts From My Yoga Mat post HERE.)
I remember the first day of my yoga teacher training about a year and a half ago we went around in a circle introducing ourselves, talking a bit about our experience with yoga and what we were hoping to get out of this training.
At the time I had done yoga on and off for a number of years, generally when I belonged to a gym that offered it. Having been a gymnast and then a diver many of the poses came naturally to me and I found it to be a good way to stretch and strengthen my muscles.
As we went around the room many of my fellow yoga teacher trainees talked about how they’ve discovered and embraced the yoga practice on their mat, but were struggling to take it off the mat into their day to day living.
Ummm…what?!? They were here because they wanted to do yoga not at the yoga studio??
It took me a bit to understand they didn’t actually mean they wanted to do tree pose at the grocery store, but rather they wanted to take the sense of calmness, focus and being present that they found while practicing the physical poses of yoga on their mat with them into their everyday life.
When it came to my turn I sheepishly admitted that I too would love to learn to take this wonderful sense of being present and quieting my mind off my yoga mat…but maybe I should start with finding it ON my mat first…
For me yoga had always been a physical practice. Some nice stretching and strength work to compliment my running. It was easy enough to do while making a mental grocery list or checking out what a fun color the girl next to me’s top was…
Clearly I was missing the point.
It took awhile, but I’ve gotten to the point in my physical yoga practice where I am completely present on my own mat. My thoughts are turned inward and focused on what I am doing in that pose in that moment.
Ok…so the occasional stray thought still sneaks in sometimes!
But I understand why all these ladies in my yoga teacher training wanted to bottle up this feeling, this calmness and presence of mind and take it with them off their mat.
And that my friends is the real practice of yoga.
It’s the practice I feel most drawn to working on now.
It’s the practice I struggle with the most.
As I said, the physical poses come very naturally to me and I think that’s why I struggled so much finding that focus ON my mat, because I didn’t really need to focus to do the poses…I could just do them.
Now that I’ve been able to quiet my mind on my mat I’m working to take it with me off my mat and into my everyday living.
I admit, I’m FAR from being able to do this. I tend to be one who gets stressed and agitated very easily (my mother and husband will both attest to this).
The other day I left the yoga studio all relaxed and happy on this beautiful high of yogic presense…
…then some jerk cut me off, I put my car horn to good use (I mean that’s what it’s there for, right?!) and yelled some choice words at my new friend in the shiny black Mercedes.
Yogi high gone.
So, it’s a work in progress. So far I’ve I’m managed to take the calm mind from my yoga mat, to the parking lot and into my car. I usually lose it somewhere on my drive home.
I guess that’s why they always say yoga is a lifelong practice!
Great post! I always say that I practice yoga because for at least that one hour, I’m only thinking about where I am and what I’m doing. But it is SO.HARD. to take that feeling away from class with me. I, too, tend toward being reactive and stressed out, and I definitely could use more calm in my life. I need to get back to yoga…
Thank you so much for commenting, it’s nice to know that others can relate! I agree that yoga is really the only time I completely disconnect and am fully focused on me in that moment. Here’s to us being able to take that feeling off the mat with us!
Yes, yes, yes, yes, and YES! Damn tornado brain of mine…..
Haha, yes! Tornado brain is the perfect way to describe it!
Yes, the car horn is there for a reason :-p I certainly have a tough time keeping calm, but I stress out easily and the real world is full of stress. That’s why I workout.
Exactly! I know a lot of people find that stress relief in running or other workouts, but for me yoga does the job best! Whatever works though right?!
I love this and can relate so much! Beautiful post! Pam (aka Mama Runs Disney)
Thanks Pam! I know not many of my readers are yogis so I’m never sure how well my yoga posts will be accepted so I’m so glad to know others can relate!
I DEFINITELY have those moments of calm (usually right after I come back from vacation) and then the moment I commute anywhere *poof* gone! But would love to be able to achieve that Yoga mindset both while doing it and after. Good luck with it! Driving in LI will definitely test you…
Oh my goodness, I was going to write about how I’m not even sure this type of calmness of mind is possible living in New York! I know just being in this area causes a lot of additional stress – all the more reason to keep practicing!
It is interesting you say “this calmness and presence of mind … and that my friends is the real practice of yoga”. It is not that I disagree with you, but it sounds like meditation strives for the same result.
When I do yoga (which is done both poorly and rarely), it is for the physical result. My mind, during yoga, is struggling to understand the goal of the pose and what it is doing to my body. I first tried yoga when someone suggested it might help with sciatica. It did. It turned out my piriformis muscle needed stretching. So now I do yoga (in the privacy of my home and still rarely) to ease the aches of running. That is, just for the physical rewards. I wish I had more flexibility, but so far that wish isn’t strong enough to work for it on a regular basis.
Thanks for your blog. And may you find the peace of mind all of us seek.
Hi Rick! I’m glad that yoga has helped you find some relief from your sciatica and I agree that when you are new to yoga or don’t practice regularly your mind is very focused on what exactly it’s supposed to be doing within the pose.
However, the interesting thing (that I didn’t get into in this post for the sake of brevity) is that traditionally the purpose of a physical yoga practice was/ is to calm the mind and relax the body to prepare to sit in meditation, so really it’s all connected!
I have to admit my mediation practice is definitely lacking at the moment, but I am planning on trying to begin meditating daily – I’m sure I’ll end up writing a post about it! : )
Please feel free to let me know if you have any other yoga/ meditation questions!
I thought this post was one of the best.
Thanks, it’s one of my favorites too I think.
Love this!! I was at class this past weekend and was trying so hard to focus on just being on my mat but my mind kept swirling. At the last savasana I stayed there until I final was able to just be. It took me all class to get to that calm and that was just in the class!! Being able to then carry it to my everyday life? Such a work in progress.
Yes, yoga is definitely always a work in progress! And it’s amazing how it varies so much from day to day – some days I’ll hold this strong, steady dancer pose and the next I’m all over the place and I’ll barely be able to balance standing!
Oh friend…this is why we get along so well. I could definitely benefit from the relaxation, state of mind and presence from yoga. I loved your perspective here and will file this away….until of course my new friend in the Mercedes cuts me off! 😉
Haha, trust me, I need everything I can get to stay calm living on Long Island…