December 22, 2013

Mirror, Mirror On the Mat.


I remember the first time I stepped on my yoga mat.

It was pink, slippery and from Target, as were my black (certainly sheer) leggings. I didn’t know what Lululemon was and the idea of hot yoga didn’t interest me at all. In fact, I easily convinced myself that I would pass out if I were to ever try it.

For weeks, I stuck to my slow flow classes, nailing down the basics while attempting to calm my anxious mind. I stepped onto my yoga mat with the intention to stretch and strengthen both my mind and body, but I never expected the mat to become my home base. Never did I expect yoga practice to have such a powerful impact on my life, and more importantly, my heart.

I remember the first class I took in the large, heated and more advanced studio.

I stepped out of my comfort zone and was intrigued by the masses of people leaving that room after just one hour. I can still feel the initial shock of the sweat, the difficulty of the movements and the eloquence of the transitions. My heart was beating in a steady, rhythmic way unlike it had in years.

Three-legged dog felt like an arabesque and dancer’s pose transported me back to the ice. Ironically, it no easier to balance on one foot on steady, level ground than it is with a quarter-inch blade on slippery, frozen water. I quickly learned that yoga, at times a well choreographed and entertaining dance, demanded a very different level of concentration and focus than it did to prepare for a triple loop.

I remember the first time I acknowledged my love affair with yoga.

Physical sensations immediately triggered emotional and mental responses. I was taken back to my favorite childhood song; the song I still, embarrassingly enough, know every lyric to. In a flashing instant, my yoga mat (still pink, still slippery, still functioning) embodied the magic carpet and I was traveling through a whole new world, with different priorities. I had a glimpse of what it felt like to fly without gliding blades and invisible wings.

I remember the first time I lost it on my yoga mat.

One of my teachers made a comment referencing the why behind what initially brought us to yoga, “We first step onto our mats to do yoga, but eventually the yoga begins to do us.” Call it a moment of weakness or strength, but I finally, after who knows how long, let myself cry. It wasn’t just in that moment that I felt the power of the practice rush over me: mind, body and spirit.

Sometimes something is said at a certain time, in a specific pose, during a particularly perfect song and emotion rises to the surface. Suddenly, the mat is no longer just pink, slippery and magical; it becomes a mirror of raw reflection. That is, if we choose to open our eyes.

People often refer to yoga as a transformational practice. As I recall pivotal moments along the journey on my mat, I am quickly beginning to see that yoga has not so much transformed me as woken me up. It has taught me that there is actually no reason to transform, for to transform is to change. To change is far less important than to embrace what already lies within.

The essence of the word Namaste, the word that concludes each practice, essentially translates to seeing and honoring the light in others as we acknowledge that the same light shines within us. Through yoga, I continue to learn that this light is unwavering and unconditional. The mirror of the mat reflects this light and the brighter the light shines, the more I remember and slowly…I awaken.

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Assistant Editor: Jennifer Moore/Editor: Bryonie Wise

Photo: Jennifer Moore

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