The New Year is traditionally a mark of a clean slate; a fresh start; an opportunity to begin again. As we wrap up what may have been one of the most confronting years of our lives, the temptation to set unrealistic goals in an effort to transform ourselves and pursue growth can be both tantalizing and intimidating. Yes, the undeniable sense of liberation that accompanies an untouched daily planner can give us the motivation to dream big, but it is our consistency and sustainable practices that actually move us closer to our goals.
So in an effort to inspire our community to simply show up, to practice and believe that all is coming, we reached out to both teachers and students to see what it is that brings them to their mats. (Spoiler: it is not a six-pack or the flexibility to contort into Insta-approved shapes.)
What brings me to my mat? Me. I do. Whether I feel like it or not. Because for a large part of my life, I have given freely of myself, willingly and happily a lot of the time, but sometimes giving so much that I barely have the energy or inspiration to care for my own needs. I’ve learned that this is not sustainable. So, I come to the mat to, at the very least, quell some current anxiety into something more manageable. Sometimes, in a singular visit, shedding layers of anxieties that have grown to be part of me over weeks or months. I don’t always stay long, but I always arrive exactly where I need to be.
We all have to balance or temper the human tendency to lean into things that don’t serve us. When I come to my mat, I’m making an intentional effort to lean into things that do serve me. Because if I am reaching my highest good, as my yoga practice so often pushes me to do, then I can send that out to everyone in my world. I come to my mat for peace, for balance, for joy and for love. Not just to find them within, but to shine them out.
I have Congenital Heart Disease that, for a period of time, claimed my wholeness. For many years I suffered with anxiety which left me feeling helpless, angry and fearful. But when I finally understood that I have a say in my healing, loving myself past the diagnosis, past the scars, and past the limitations became my focus. Intentional about life, I began to heal from the inside out! Practicing being present in every aspect of life, I began to pray with purpose, eat with purpose and take care of my body with purpose. Now, I understand that my condition isn’t a death sentence, but actually my life-saver. By learning to calm and control my mind through meditation and the practice of yoga, I have learned to be present, making life that much more precious.
Sivakami Sreenivasan (pictured above)
Although I grew up with Yoga in a very traditional setting, I was introduced to the mat but very recently. You see, Yoga was not taught to me as merely physical practice, but rather as an experiential way of life: as a multi-layered, yet utterly simple awareness. When I was exposed to ‘Yoga on the mat’, it seemed at first foreign and even odd, but I have since come to understand that asana and pranayama are simply another manner in which Yoga brings us back to ourselves. What draws me to my mat now is the remembrance that my body is but a vessel, a temple that the Universe/Divinity flows and acts through. With this understanding, it becomes my dharma, or duty, to care for and keep my environment balanced. Because Yoga is my way of life, the practice is ever consistent, in every aspect, every action, inaction, thought, consciousness, inhalation, exhalation, in remembrance and forgetfulness. I’m so grateful for the grace of knowing that Yoga is all around and within me, regardless of whether I’m on or off the mat!
You see, though we are all inspired by slightly different reasons for coming to the mat, it is more or less the same: to chip away that which does not serve us, or build up the things that do, little by little, part by part. As we invite in the New Year, it is our hope for you, our community, that rather than demanding a big ask of yourself to change all of the “bad” thought patterns and habits at once, that you instead lean into consistency, sustainability and that you simply show up to practice, both on and off the mat, because all is coming.