Off the Mat

The other day an acupuncture client I have known for many years had a question about my love for yoga.  She asked in an incredulous voice, “Why do you spend your limited free time in pretzel-like, positions that look uncomfortable and, some of them, unbearable?”  Good question!!!

Why do those of us who practice yoga choose to arrange our bodies in seemingly bizarre hand-to-foot-standing-balance-fbshapes that are challenging and often uncomfortable?  As if that isn’t enough, while finding these shapes with our bodies we ask our breath to be long and smooth and our minds to remain calm.

Many yoga postures may bring up feelings of frustration and discomfort, potentially activating our fight or flight response.  Simultaneously taking long, deep breaths activates our parasympathetic system sending a signal that tells us “Even though you are feeling challenged, you can choose to stay calm”.

We practice this over and over again on our mats with the intention of taking this skill off of our mats and out into the rest of our lives.  So maybe, just maybe, the next time we get chewed out by our boss, cut off in rush hour traffic, or accused by our teenage son or daughter that we “Just don’t understand!” we can recognize that while we are feeling challenged and frustrated and maybe down right angry, we can choose to take some long, deep breaths and remain calm.

The practice of yoga doesn’t ask us to have a perfect headstand or crow pose or to be able to do a split.  It asks us to remain calm as we challenge ourselves on our mats and then to find this same sense of calm and stillness when life outside of our yoga practice challenges us.

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