It is way easier to be a good yogi ON the mat, isn’t it? But what is true yoga? And most importantly, why do we practice yoga “on the mat”? Well, good yoga mats are nice and non-slippery, but metaphorically speaking: what’s the difference between our practice ON the mat, and OFF the mat in the real world? Why do we commit to our practice on the mat? Of course, to help us be better versions of ourselves “off the mat”. Yoga prepares us for all those tricky real-life situations, so we are equipped with solid tools to go through the storm, to fall apart if necessary, and to pull ourselves together in the aftermath of a disaster. That’s what yogis do. Right? Well, in theory, anyways.
We all have days when we feel like life is just awesome. We are grateful, and the sun is shining. The birds and chirping, and we can’t get that grin off of our faces. And of course, some of it can be rightfully attributed to yoga – yoga just makes people happy.
But we also have those, less pleasurable days, when nothing goes right, and everything goes wrong. It could be as simple as not having enough sleep, being tired in the morning, having coffee, and then in the afternoon, you start feeling that caffeine wearing off, throwing the rest of your day completely in the wrong direction. Sometimes, stepping on the mat, can fix the mood problem, as we know this could be just our perception, which is far from reality. So, we switch our gears after a good meditation, and brush that “bad day feeling” with a few omms, coupled with a soulful namaste intention for the rest of the day.
Now, this it is absolutely possible to shift your perception towards a happier reality with a good session of yoga, but what if it’s not your “perception?” What if the actual reality is stressful? What if your pain is real? What if a really bad thing happened in your life? What if your reality is crumbling and the storm you are in, is a … real storm you have to deal with?
Being a yogi for over 8 years myself, I do have a solid toolkit of yoga tricks to get me back to reality I want to see around me, but after I got stuck in a hurricane in New York in 2012, I desperately started to seek for something more….. (The name Sandy is never going to sound the same to me either).
I remember sitting in my Manhattan hotel, by myself, fear enveloping my whole being, not able to move, leave along do yoga or meditate. Frozen with fear. I tried. But the primordial instinct of survival took over me every time I tried to quiet my mind. Then noise in my head (literally, that I am going to die) was so loud that I needed something very powerful to shut it up.
I put my passport, a bottle of water, and a snack in the tub. I thought, if the building starts collapsing, I would just jump in the tub, duh. In a way, I guess, I came to conclusion, that I had to face the reality, and stop denying the situation.
The hurricane was coming, and I had to accept that. With acceptance there came a subtle sense of relief. A little bit more control over my feelings, I guess. By accepting, and facing whatever situation we are in, we subconsciously turn to having faith. We know that we cannot control everything in our lives, but what yoga teaches us is to have faith, at all times.
I got my MacBook out and got my yoga tunes blasted in my hotel room. The music, the soft voices, steady calming vibrations of mantras, made me feel at home, and literally replaced the noise I was having in my head before. Meditation is awesome for quieting your mind, when your mind is passively accepting itself by getting you back to check Facebook, or instagram 10 times a day, but when something drastic is happening in your life, I found meditation was not working for me at all. Giving my mind something to focus on – music + mantra, was a wonderful way to get the stress level down in a natural way (drinking wine did not help either, by the way. I tried.).
The last thing, that got me through this – I was forcing myself to breathe. Consciously coming back to my breath, was my way of connecting my mind with reality, that I am still here, I am not dying, and as long as I can breathe, I should be ok.
Whatever might be happening in your life today – a minor shake up, or a real storm – remember – it’s ok to fall. Besides, your mat is always there to catch you, after the storm is over.
Namaste. Keep moving. Be real.