Beyond the Mat

To know the truth we have to deepen ourselves, and not merely widen the surface.

~ Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan

From the sidelines of a yoga class it may appear that touching the crown of the head with the pinkie toe is the pinnacle of practice. After all, how is yoga different from any other type of fitness regime? The two elements on which this answer depends are the teacher and the student — and their intention. Okay, maybe this makes four elements, but regardless, it’s this mojo that determines the direction of the experience and it’s the individual that brings it.

The process of Yoga has the potential to move the body in a different way but this is only the beginning. Asanas (postures) are designed to influence the expansion of space, not just in the body but also within our thoughts. In this way, how we experience life also begins shifting in a new direction.

When we first begin a mat practice it’s all we can do to find our feet when instructed. However, as confidence and comfort (yes, this does develop over time) begin to expand as does our ability to concentrate on the nuances within each pose. Deepening into a particular stretch does not refer merely to increasing mobility or strengthening muscles but our ability to focus as we develop the freedom to explore the subtle fluctuations within the body and mind.

Our practice becomes juicy when our experience on the mat begins taking on the rhythm of a guided meditation. Flowing with a bit more assurance, our initial feelings of uncertainty evaporate into something different. Postures that once generated inklings of mild loathing become an opportunity to observe our bodies and minds from a place of relative ease.

The mat becomes our safe place. Creating the unwavering foundation beneath us to continue expanding beyond our boundaries, each session uncoils a fresh opportunity to open to our true selves without judgment or fear. Supported in this journey, gradually, we begin penetrating deep pockets of clarity from within.

These gentle openings establish healthy, grounded connections with our bodies and beliefs. It can only happen gradually, with patience and loving acceptance that no matter what we find, it’s going to be okay. Over time this process is what equips us with the authentic stability we need to move with life’s challenges, not merely cope with them.

We discover our true selves.

Together on a planet with billions of other people, we are engaged in a singular game. Our shared experiences are truly known from only one perspective and Yoga is one method of discovering the depth of these perceptions. With the guidance of those who have walked this path before us, there is a clear direction.

It begins with taking the first step. If we believe we are walking into an exercise class, this is the benefit we reap. If we believe we are stepping into something more, this is also what we experience. No right or wrong; merely a difference of perception — a perception that morphs and changes with every breath. 

~ by Christine Fowle (Lewiston, NY)

~ Photo: Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh 2014