On the mat, yoga strengthens our bodies, increases flexibility, improves circulation and relaxes the nervous system. The physical and mental benefits of asana practice are endless, but perhaps there are greater applications of yoga’s teaching off the mat.
1. Off the mat, yoga teaches us our capacity to build strength to withstand life’s obstacles. It teaches us that the ‘aches’ that life deals are merely growing pains on our journey making us stronger. Do you remember your first Vinyasa class? All the warriors that made your legs ache for days later? Surely they don’t sting that much anymore!
2. Yoga teaches us to be flexible and resilient to smoothly bounce back from life’s chaos. It teaches us that when we quit resisting, and simply submit our bodies into a posture, this is how we can increase our flexibility. Much like when we resist something in life, it persists; and the moment we submit to life’s challenges, it opens up a new door of opportunities.
3. It teaches us to inhale that which nourishes us, and exhale that which is our poison; breathing in love, and breathing out anger, inhaling gratitude and exhaling desire, drawing in acceptance and releasing resistance.
4. It teaches us to exhale the fear of falling in life, much like the first time we tried headstand on our own, and to trust that if we fall, we fall back and land on our feet, enabling us to try it all over again. It teaches us that falling is not failing and bending is not breaking.
5. It teaches us that every final Savasana is a rebirth, making every practice new and fresh; just like every morning we wake up is brand new and loaded with endless potential.
We all know the benefits of yoga on the mat, but never forget the benefits you reap every day from your practice off the mat.