Working Outside Our Borders–in Art and in Yoga. ~ Lisa Wilson

Via elephant journal
on May 16, 2011
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I am not a morning person.

Photo: Lisa Wilson

The thud as my yoga mat hits the floor this morning is a shock to my foggy mind. Early morning is the only time I’m going to get on this mat. I know that. But my body doesn’t care and my mind is starting to agree.

Four lines outlining this dreaded rectangle. I step onto it and I’m on my mat – I am “doing yoga”. Being gentle with myself as my mind wanders and I flop into a pose while forgetting my core, I am none-the-less here and practicing (ok – sort of). I can’t help but wonder, though, what am I actually doing on this mat?

When I stop off of this rectangle (and after a series of frantic get-‘em-out-the-door-and-on-the-bus routines), I will go do my art.

I will lay out another rectangle and apply my paints to it. When artists “do” our art, we work with a medium. Some will find a blob of clay and find within it the shape they desire. Some work with energetic waves of music, some through the lens of a camera, some with curving, powerful lines of the body. These media with which the artists work, whether they be paper, clay, letters of the alphabet, or lines of the body are the defining features – the borders – of the art form.

The yoga mat and the artist’s medium both have clear lines that help us to define the practice as well as have it be recognizable to others.

The problem comes when we believe that yoga or art or any practice exists only within those lines…and when we believe everything within those lines is always the practice.

If I believe that simply being on my mat or painting lines – no matter how technically skilled I may appear – makes me a yogini or an artist, I will surely find myself becoming bored and the practice quite dry. It may appear pretty or impressive to someone else but the lines don’t contain the essence of the practice.

On the other hand, if I believe that my yoga or art practice stops once I am outside the borders of the yoga mat or off the confines of the page, I will miss out on that essence and the vitality of the practice.

Beyond The Border

Borders help us define and experience the world around us. They help us to do the practice. Yet in order to embody and truly receive anything from the practice, we must go beyond the borders. We must be and live the practice.

Title: The Breath of Emotions Image Copyright: Lisa Wilson; Information:

As we work with our awareness outside of our borders, we realize that our practice is not only our yoga, or our art – or our job or our religious practice or our practice as parents or citizens – our life is our practice. We take the same lessons we work with on the yoga mat out into our mundane existence.

Everyone has borders – ways of seeing and defining the world. These borders help people to function and survive. Whether someone draws their lines on a yoga mat, through paint or pencils, around Republican beliefs or Democratic, sketching God as a male figure in the heavens or simply leaving the page blank, we must remember not to judge another’s yoga mat (nor belief system). They are simply there to help us function.

Everyone also has the capability to expand beyond their borders. But you wouldn’t step onto a fellow practioner’s yoga mat and shove them off to get them to experience yoga off the mat. (Or you might. Just remind me not to practice next to you.) You can’t force anyone outside of their own borders off the mat either.

Title: Metamorphosis; Image Copyright: Lisa Wilson; Information:

Take responsibility for yourself.  Today, play. Play with those borders you have in your own life. Try doing a modified tree pose at the gas pump or using your finger to paint your ketchup onto your sandwich. Play with the awareness of the essence of your practice – your job, your yoga, your art, your life.

As for my practice?

I’m going back to bed.


Lisa is an iced-chai-addicted, yoga-teaching (mostly to herself), self-centered Midwestern mommy whose fascination with and exploration of life often means she forgets to cook dinner and switch the laundry.

A self-defined “Awareness-Artist”, Lisa shares her stories, art, and practical wisdom with the world at, on Facebook at and on Twitter at  (No wonder she doesn’t have time to do laundry.)


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18 Responses to “Working Outside Our Borders–in Art and in Yoga. ~ Lisa Wilson”

  1. Tracy says:

    …as i sit slouched over my desk at work… ah, practice off the mat ~ such a good reminder! (sitting up taller now) thank you for this Lisa, really enjoyed it!

  2. Ah! Lisa! You are here! I love the way you define yoga as existing beyond borders, and art as existing in that same border-less space. And then you embrace people's borders as the ways we each function in the world, and invite us to respect them. This is BEAUTIFUL!!! The simultaneous breaking and respecting of borders, which you then tell us is life itself! Off the matt, off the canvass, beyond the borders! And then, (the best part!), you ask us to PLAY with the borders!!! I needed to hear this today. The wait for your article was sooo worth it! After much anticipation I am left with that carefree feeling that says: Yes! I want to PLAY, Lisa!!!! You got it! Play, yoga, art, life! JUICY! Thank you so much for sharing!

  3. Emma says:

    I like this. How can we experience ourselves as artists or cooks or lovers of humor when we're making a cup of tea, doing laundry, or calling the electric company? Very worth exploring!

  4. yoga-adan says:

    i got a lot of the same views 'bout borders, edges, working them and living around and beyond them, so can't help but like your article 😉 nice work, thanks!

  5. Lisa says:

    Tracy – thanks for returning the favor – I sit straighter now too!
    Katarina – thanks to YOU! Juicy, sexy, beautiful YOU!
    Emma – ah yes…so glad it speaks to you – and your comment helps remind me of additional areas I need to explore.
    Yoga-Adan – So glad we share a lot of views! 🙂 Thank YOU!

  6. Connie says:

    You know me Lisa…I'm all about crossing borders!! Excellent post! I'm so super proud of you–and your watercolor painting is gorgeous!

    BIG Hugs!

  7. Theresa says:

    Wonderful post, Lisa! Thank you for sharing your art and your story here. 🙂

  8. […] you haven’t done so already, please go and visit her Elephant journal post, Working Outside our Borders – in Art and Yoga. And if you like it, do spread the word with a tweet and/or a like! It really will make her […]

  9. Emily says:

    I always love reading your posts, Lisa, and this article did not disappoint, either. Your honesty, vulnerability, and willingness to share the ins and outs of how we go about our everyday lives is always so inspiring and refreshing. Great job! 🙂

  10. What a pleasure it is to bring this article to the Elephant audience.

    Posting to Elephant Yoga on Facebook and Twitter.

    Also posting to "Featured Today" on the Elephant Yoga homepage.

    Bob W.
    Yoga Editor

  11. Lisa says:

    Connie, Cheryl, Theresa, and Emily – you keep me smiling and for that I cannot thank you enough.

  12. Creative, playful, lovely and profound. Thank you for sharing. As someone who practices yoga while pumping gas, waiting in line, washing dishes, in the kiddie pool, at my desk and in the studio I definitely consider the entire world my yoga mat, here to be explored and treasured. My sister is an artist – I`m sending her a link to this article.

  13. Namastellen says:

    Love it! Namaste!

  14. I love the way you make the analogy between yoga and art only (or not only) happening on that small rectangle. I certainly am no artist, but I just might draw with my ketchup at dinner now. Thank you

  15. Lisa says:

    Again, thank you to all of the wonderful commenters – and to you, Bob, for the feature!! Donna: What a beautiful life you lead!! Jennifer: Here's to finding your inner artist in the ketchup. 🙂

  16. Just posted to "Popular Lately" on the Elephant Yoga homepage.

    Bob W. Yoga Editor
    Elephant Yoga on Facebook
    Follow on Twitter

  17. Natasha says:

    Lisa…this made me stop at a time when I needed to and listen to my body and my soul – both of which want to create and expand way beyond my borders…thank you for being such a shining light ….namaste

  18. […] Working Outside Our Borders–in Art and in Yoga. ~ Lisa Wilson […]