I get asked a lot about what draws me to yoga. And I try my best to answer fully, truly but it’s so difficult to put into words, and most people don’t have the real time for it. So I normally smile sweetly and say somewhat ironically but with complete honesty “it helps me get through the day.” And then, I shrug my shoulders slightly and I laugh kindly.
And sometime they press for more, and sometimes it’s good enough.But I never really say it, I never actually explain it.
So if you’re wondering, and never asked someone why, or you’re bored and have a few moments to kill … here’s my best, truest explanation of what draws me to yoga.
Let me first begin by saying, your yoga practice isn’t solely on your mat. Your practice on your mat is solely a tool to help you in the world.
It meets you in the moments when you interact with others, when they push your buttons and get under your skin – it tells you to breathe deeper. It meets you in the moments when you’re in awe of the beauty surrounding you – an incredible view, an old couple still in love, the warmth of a sunny sky – and it tells you to be grateful.
It meets you when you don’t think you can make it through – when one step in front of the other is one too many, when grief overcomes you and you have no desire to get out of bed – it tells you to do it anyway. It meets you when you’re frustrated – when you can’t find the solution, when the airline is delayed or the person in front of you is digging for that last penny – it tells you to soften and have patience.
Yoga uses the physical challenges and edges to represent those same moments that brush up against us in everyday life. It shows us how to notice these things and feel them in a safe space that is only with ourself. Safe from harming others.
And it trains us.
It’s called a practice because it doesn’t happen in a single day. It builds slowly, over time. It happens when we return to our mat when we’re excited, when we’re tired and especially when we don’t want to do anything. It helps us release our past transgressions (and those of others).
It unbinds the stress and years of tension we don’t realize is still housed within us, in this body. It shows us our dark spots, our wounds we thought were closed and our tender spots that are the beginning buds of self love or confidence.
It shows us what’s not good for us – cream cheese, alcohol, cigarettes, negative thoughts and toxic people. It helps us find balance not just through our feet, but when we say, “screw it, I really want a bagel, or a glass of wine.” It also helps us find balance when our body is thirsty and we reach for an apple, not the bagel. It helps us feel strong some days and flexible other days.
It shows us that we can pick up our own selves off the floor, that the five-second-rule doesn’t begin or end with our favorite potato chip. It helps us feel good and helps us find our own sense of expression.
The beauty of yoga is that it starts with us. It starts with those moments of recognition from within. It starts by speaking kinder or more encouraging to ourselves so we can speak kinder and more encouraging to others too. It starts on our mat, but it does not stay there.
More than anything yoga, like grace, meets us where we’re at, but does not leave us where it found us.