by: Michelle Finerty
One of the things I love about yoga is that if you truly pay attention to what you're working on in class, you'll probably find a connection to something you're working on in your life off the mat. During class, you may set an intention to be more open to trying a new pose instead of taking the option to do a pose you're already comfortable with. Later, at work you may realize that the stuck feeling you've been experiencing is due to not taking on new tasks that challenge you, as you've become comfortable at your current workload.
The insights obtained from your yoga practice are endless. If anyone would have told me at the time I started yoga that my yoga practice would change my life in more ways than learning to slow down and become more attuned to my body, I would have laughed. However, in the 17 years that I've been practicing yoga, I've seen that the philosophy of yoga and the experience of tuning into my body and mind have transformed my entire life.
The majority of people I've talked to who have been practicing yoga have said the same thing. Whether being on the mat one week or ten years, the life-changing effects of yoga are the main reason we keep coming back to the mat.
Here are three of my major breakthroughs on the mat that have helped in taking my practice off the mat.
Mindfulness is becoming a very popular subject these days and I think that is wonderful! There is an increased need for more awareness in the world and for me mindfulness started on my yoga mat by becoming aware of the connection between my breath and body. I noticed that whenever I started to feel stressed at the thought of going into a certain pose on the mat, I would start having an anxiety attack, but when I stopped the cycle of negative thoughts in my head and allowed my attention to rest on my breath everything returned to normal and I was able to find calm. I started to take this awareness to my social interactions off the mat and realized that if I gave myself the time to pause, I was a better communicator and left a more positive experience for everyone involved.
Through my yoga practice I have started to experience the reality that we are all connected in this world. Every action or inaction doesn't just affect you and the people around you, it affects the entire world. The way you act around other people, the example you set for your children, the treatment of animals, ethical choices of where to shop, where to eat, which causes you donate your time and money to. All of these have an impact on the energy of the world around us.
If you have the time and ability, there are so many wonderful organizations to volunteer for. Whether you volunteer for opportunities within the yoga community, such as Off the Mat, Into the World or share your time with an organization that you are passionate about, it’s about setting aside the time to make a difference.
No matter how you wish to share it, the insights learned on your yoga mat are beautiful gifts to treasure, learn from, and share with the world. One step at a time, one pause at a time, one day at a time.