December 16, 2011

Who Doesn’t Like To Get Presents?

Every Single Time We Unroll Our Mats, We Give Ourselves A Little Pile Of Gifts.

I bet you’ve spent some time making lists lately, haven’t you? Maybe yours looks a little like this?

Your Significant Other
Your Mom
Your Dad
Your Brother
Your Sister
Your Childhood Friend
Your Kids’ Piano Teacher
The Mailman
The Trash Guys

On and on goes the list of the people to whom you’d like to give gifts this holiday season. It’s fun to make this list. Doing so provides a moment to consider how lucky you are to have these people in your life. It’s even more fun to consider what to choose that would bring a smile to each face. And seeing all those specially chosen gifts piled up in their pretty paper and bows can bring a smile to your face too. It feels good to give.

How would you feel about putting yourself on this list? A little funny? After all, it’s not really the best time of year to be splurging on gifts for ourselves, is it?

I don’t want to make yogis out to be extravagant or anything, but every single time we unroll our mats, we give ourselves a little pile of gifts. We give ourselves the gift of time – time to step out of the swirl of our lists, tasks, chores and projects. Our “time out” liberates us from feelings of being hurried, stressed or squeezed. Our “time out” on our mats allows us to better realize our priorities, to be more efficient, to feel less frazzled and to be more mindful.

When we practice yoga, we give ourselves the gift of space. When we step on our mats, we step away from everyone else and turn within. A little time by ourselves, moving and breathing, can give us some elbow room. It can make our lives feel a lot less cramped and crowded. This time apart can leave us eager to return and ready to re-engage with the people around us.

This gift of space is not just external. Practicing yoga helps create space within as well. Our practice teaches us how powerful it is to set aside judging thoughts about ourselves. It’s not long before we find ourselves stepping away from opinions and thoughts about others as well. When we do this, even if just for a few moments, our state of mind shifts. We leave our mats more open, more accommodating and more spacious.

When we unroll our mats, we give ourselves the gift of health. Yoga is a gift to our bodies. It is restorative, nurturing, and healing. It methodically opens, re-balances, unbinds and invigorates. It stimulates our systems – digestive, respiratory, endocrine, and cardio-vascular. It keeps us lean, toned and strong. Not only does yoga leaves us standing a little taller in our own shoes, but it leaves us feeling fully alive and energized as we do so.

Practicing yoga gives us the gift of a brighter spirit. Moving and breathing on our mats quiets our minds and guides our awareness inward. As we spend more and more time in this quiet, inner place, we reconnect with the unique spark of life that is the very essence of our being. Some experience this as a moment of communion with God. Some experience it as a visceral connection with the whole of creation. Some experience this as pure clarity that we are more than flesh and blood – we are spiritual beings. However we interpret this experience, our inward focus fans our spark, encouraging it to shine through everything we do.

If we look at our practices as a pile of gifts, rather than as another “should” filling our day, I suspect we’ll be much more likely to practice regularly. After all, who doesn’t like to get presents? But this gift that we give ourselves is a little magical. It is truly the gift that keeps on giving. Yoga leaves us filled up and better able to give of ourselves to all the wonderful people who fill our lives.

So, go ahead! Add yourself to that list. And feel good about it! Doing so won’t stretch your budget. But it will certainly stretch you – body, mind and spirit.

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Amy Nobles Dolan  |  Contribution: 9,100