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Reflections on the Mat May 12, 2009

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What happens on the mat during a yoga practice is usually a reflection of what’s happening in the outer world of self so you can learn a lot just by being aware of emotions, thoughts and/or frustrations that come up during the physical practice. Students ask me all the time if they’re doing the poses correctly, but it’s not about doing it right or wrong, as there is no such thing as a perfect pose. It’s just about getting on the mat and doing it. Whatever your body is doing at the time is right and no two practices are alike, as life is dynamic and our bodies always changing.

I watched a student’s practice flourish over the first year she was with me and I could tell she was proud of herself and was more comfortable in her body than when she first started, but she approached me after class last week and told me she was frustrated because she didn’t feel like her practice was growing anymore. Her mind was telling her stories and making her feel like she wasn’t good enough because the better we feel about ourselves, the less power we give to the ego and our lower emotions. As a result, the ego tries to diminish our self confidence in order to gain some control back.   

I congratulated her for taking the practice to a new level because what she described to me was exactly what happens as a practice matures. You get more comfortable in your skin and with the poses that once seemed so foreign and you begin to move deeper in to the experience of yoga. It’s no longer just about the poses, as layers of the “proverbial” onion begin to peel away. The practice starts to work on a physiological level, which is where the real work begins.

If you’re frustrated, good! It means something wonderful is happening. It means you are growing spiritually emotionally and mentally. Pay attention to what comes up. Just being aware will give you insight to the deeper teachings of your inner self. Don’t label your practice as good or bad. Yoga is a beautiful journey that can take you deep within yourself and it’s in that place where you find peace and calm in a way you’ve never felt before.

It’s not always easy facing yourself and honoring parts of yourself you may have buried, but the clearing that happens from doing such deep work is profound and takes you to a place of beautiful serenity. It’s just about getting on the mat and practicing, as your higher self will take care of the rest.