Alertness and Relaxation - Off the mat

This weekend I had a conversation with a good friend of mine, who made a very interesting observation when reading my last story ‘practice self care and be a warrior of light’ on YOGI TIMES.

He has just recently started practicing Yoga and he started reading a lot on it. We discussed the notion of practicing Yoga ‘on the mat’ and he felt it was overrated ‘being on the mat’. Why does the mat get so much importance?...A notion of being depending on the mat…

I remember in our Yoga teacher training our BelovedYoga teachers gave us homework: to practice our Sun Salutations without a mat just on the floor at home and note down what we experienced.

And yes, I realized that we get so attached to our mats, the comfort of not slipping and feeling a strong foundation to practice on. When I felt the carpet or floor under my feet and hands, I was aware that I was alert and had to engage my core more to form a stable foundation, the stihra, for the easiness and sweetness of the asanas (poses), the sukha in the Sun Salutations.

As stated in Pantañjali Yoga Sūtras  2.46 ‘sthirasukhanmāsanam’ , translated ‘Āsana must have the dual qualities of alertness and relaxation’(T.K.V. Desikachar).

Like a balancing act with everything in life, an equilibrium between strength/alertness and comfort/ease. In life many things can happen that challenges our strength and flexibility and we need to adapt. Like walking on ice and feeling your feet loosing their grip instead of staying in your knees and trying to slide on the ice. The same in life… once we get too attached to our taken for granted stability, it will be harder for us to adapt.

What about if we felt the stability, the strength within ourselves to practice Yoga ‘on the mat’, also ‘off the mat’? Because within ourselves lies the true strength that we human beings all embody and tend to forget. Our true self has been conditioned by our society to rely on certain set of behaviors and ways of thinking. We alone can form our strength to act and walk through life with easiness and happiness without external factors, which change and constantly tend to influence us on a daily basis. Our strength is within all of us and we can use it to practice Yoga ‘off the mat’ with easiness and clarity without struggle and more listening to our own teacher.

However, we do sometimes in life need some support from outside, from family and friends to build our foundation in life and ’walk our path’.

Like a beginner taking his/her first Yoga class and would need the support from the mat (and the guidance of a teacher) in order to build strength and build his/her foundation for the future Yoga practice.

The same principle ‘sthirasukhanmāsanam’ (Pantañjali, Yoga Sūtras 2.46) can be adopted in life.