A story of the things that stick when you bring your mat with you into the world.
Most of us that attend yoga class regularly have heard about taking the practice of yoga off the mat. So, what exactly does taking our yoga practice off the mat and into the world entail? The prominent yogi T.K.V. Desikachar observed that,
“The mastery of yoga must not be measured simply by the ability to master the techniques of yoga like asana and pranayama, but by how it influences our day-to-day living, how it enhances our personal relationships, and how it promotes clarity and peace of mind.”
Over the last six years, I’ve practiced yoga on a regular basis and completed a year-long teacher training program. During this time my gratitude, compassion and mindfulness have certainly grown—and, my life has improved.
My yoga practice has saved me from deep despair as I faced major life changes.
One way I take yoga off the mat is by sharing with my students the positive changes I’ve experienced in my life since beginning yoga. I explain yoga concepts like ahimsa (non-harming) and santosa (contentment), but I also strive to live the yoga principles and therefore teach by example.
I am drawn to teach yoga to kids with special needs and their supporters after serving several years as an educator. The desire to offer yoga to this group is the reason I signed up to complete a yoga teacher training program. I’ve noticed something interesting over the last few months. Recently my mat has taken on pieces of the environment I last visited.
It started during my teacher training program. During one weekend of our training, a speaker presented on the many ways to use essential oils including to calm and focus, decrease muscle soreness, and increase energy. Samples were passed around, applied, and enjoyed for the entire day.
From that weekend on, I have been able to discern my mat from all others by the delightful smells of lavender, thieves, lemon, and peppermint that remain. The lingering aroma is pleasant and comes in handy when I accidentally mix my generic purple mat in with 15 donated ones. I just breathe.
Since completing my training, I’ve acquired several private clients that I teach. One of these private clients is an adorable six year old boy who lives on the beach. I travel to his house once a week and we do yoga together. I’m teaching him yoga because the boy’s pediatrician suggested his mom get him involved in the practice of yoga to manage symptoms of his ADHD and OCD. We’ve been meeting for two months now and his mom says the yoga is working! I notice when I leave the beach and later roll out my mat for my own practice, tiny grains of sand, like little reminders of our time together, roll out too! For this I am grateful.
I’ve also been teaching yoga to groups of individuals participating in support programs to meet their behavioral health needs. In one of these settings, an alternative school for girls, the only space large enough to accommodate our group of ten is the lunch room. After lunch is served, the tables are folded and pushed to the sides making room for us to arrange our mats on the floor.
Like all good yogis, at the end of the session, we roll up our mats as we prepare to leave class. I’ve noticed since there is no time to sweep up when lunch ends and before yoga begins, that an interesting collection of food particles attach themselves to my “sticky” mat and are there when and where I next unroll it. Seeing this reminds me to be mindful of what I leave behind as it will impact those who follow after me.
Another setting I teach in is the aerobic room of a behavioral health center. The room is used throughout the week by clients and employees of the center for “circuit training,” a type of exercise new to me.
The floor covering in this area is cushioned and I’m sure absorbs a fair amount of the sweat rolling off the bodies of those moving through the circuit. God knows what travels from this floor into my mat. It does make me think about sweat, and sweating, and how it’s good to develop strength in our physical bodies but even better to balance the strength of our body, mind and soul equally.
The universe has provided me with a new, humorous meaning of “take it off the mat.”
I make the choice to be non-reactive as life’s inevitable challenges appear. I get to be light about what is and feel joyful more of the time. Humor is a reminder to trust that everything, from life’s major crises to seemingly insignificant events, is happening as it is meant to happen. There’s nothing for me to “do” but enjoy it all!
Lee Day enjoys living with her three cats in her East Hill cottage in Pensacola, Florida where she teaches yoga to individuals with special needs and those who serve them. She completed her 200 hour level yoga teacher training at Dragonfly Yoga Studies in Ft. Walton, Florida in January 2012.
Editor: Carrie Stiles