I Threw Out My Yoga Mat, and You Should Too
This guest post was written by Ann Marie. Read more at madefromstardust.
I’d like to make a case for throwing out your yoga mat.
Wait now, before you get your stretchy pants in a bunch tighter than a hipster man-bun, I’d also like to suggest that your idea of what yoga should be is wrong. Perhaps it’s even unnecessary.
Whoa, now I really have you going. Please let me explain.
I came to this yoga game just a few years ago in my search of answers to all my existential questions. Om shanti om, green juice, organic vegan diet, let’s just meditate, have we reached enlightenment yet? Because I’m short on time and I miss my quadruple Americano. I was told a yoga practice was what I needed to calm my inner thoughts and find the bliss to balance the sustained busyness of all the other parts of life. I had been reading up on Buddhism, Hinduism, Tantra, and calling a truce on my inner war. I thought yoga class was the substitute for church and somehow required to show my physical dedication to a mindful life. I was on the edge of a meltdown, every self proclaimed yogi I met sounded so sure that they were on the right karmic path to inner peace, and they somehow convinced me I too needed a yoga practice to be complete. It would reduce my anger, they said. It would help alleviate my depression they said. I had lost a spouse, and part of my sanity, and I was tired of smoking my pain away, finding my only comfort in clouds of marijuana. I was ready to make the attempt to face my life, but I needed a little help. So I spent too much money at Lululemon, purchased a yoga mat and a studio membership, and started going to yoga classes on the regular. I booked a weekend at Wanderlust. After four days of three classes a day, a singular meditation hike, and full immersion into the yogic culture, I felt even nuttier than before I started. Namas’cray.
What was I missing? I was surrounded by all this “peace” and “enlightenment,” yet I felt like the new girl at a smug preppy school who wasn’t allowed to sit with the cool kids because I didn’t have the right color yoga pants. Om shanti om, om, ommm… Ugh. I thought, “Maybe I’m just a bad yogi.” I was struggling emotionally, and no one had the time or willingness to listen to me. It disrupted their perceived state of pretended inner peace.
So I started reading about the yoga practice and the origin. Only in the last century has yoga become so popular as the form of exercise everyone is so eager to do today. I was surprised to find yoga wasn’t really about the perfect headstand, warrior pose, or getting a Sanskrit tattoo. The recent proliferation of yoga gurus claiming their studio to be the best in town only seemed to perpetuate the idea that yoga is the latest, greatest fitness trend we all should be trying. It’s not. Yoga is a philosophy, a practice that encompasses your physical body, mind and spirit. The physical aspect is just one part of it. The most important part of your practice is savasana and your breath. The movements and poses are designed to bring about a meditative state by connecting your breath, your mind with your body, and centering your inner heart.
It’s about listening. The truest part of a yoga practice takes place off the mat.
It’s about knowledge. Knowledge of self. Yoga is the movement and recognition of our soul, our common humanity, and a way to put us in touch with the divine spark that connects life. Reasonably, anything can do this, if you believe in the benefits of meditation. I happen to find running very meditative. I like the rhythm. I listen to my breath, and find a steady pace, so that I may let my mind rest while my legs work to automatically propel me forward.
What I’m merely suggesting is that perhaps you don’t need to attend every class at your local yoga studio clad in pretty athletic attire to be a yogi. I still do yoga. Now, I do it at home, in the quiet, and… Sometimes naked. Or in my pajamas. Or underwear, whatever I like. And I breathe. I find the postures flow rather easily, and somehow my body just feels the correct sequence according to what needs alignment in my body. Somewhere in this movement, I also start to feel alignment in my head.
So throw out your mat. Or don’t. But the next time you attend a class, try to see it as a learning opportunity, and use it for the community connection to a group of people just like you- human beings. Take what you learn and apply it to the rest of your behavior. Yoga isn’t about the mat, the class, or outperforming the woman next to you by showing off your perfect bakasana. It’s the implementation of peace and living in the present moment. It’s a mental and physical connection to help us remember how to breathe through this life. It’s a practice, a very personal one, and that’s the way it should be.
Read more from Ann Marie at madefromstardust.