While I don’t quite clearly recall my first yoga class, I can openly admit that during the first few months of my practice, I was far from the model student. I whispered to my neighbor, giggled at the strange and unusual words that my teacher said and had a tendency to let my ego take the wheel as I showed off my newfound skills. What I DO remember — as if it were yesterday — is what it felt like to first step on to my own yoga mat.
My First Mat
My very first mat was a birthday gift from my husband. It was dark grey and one that he handpicked just for me. This mat was made for a “serious” yogi in my favorite shade of the 50; just dark enough to hide the wear and tear that would come where my hands and feet pressed. This was a perfect gift for me then, and while I have cycled through a few different mats over the years, the feelings that I had about my first mat and those that followed still resonate.
As many brand new mats are, mine was a bit stubborn and ornery. For quite a while, I slid all over it. And boy, was that frustrating. If you have ever had the pleasure of owning a slippery mat of your own, I know that you understand exactly how I felt. Over time and with some patience, I was able to wear it in and find the grooves for my hands and feet. Dozens of downward facing dogs later, I found that I could trust that I would find a supportive surface to create traction and build strength. Even now, there is nothing quite like feeling the connection between my bare feet and the surface of my mat.
More Than a Physical Space
The practice of yoga has the power to be deeply personal and transformational. Our mats provide the physical space for this to occur. When you step onto a mat, you give yourself time to turn inward and reflect. It is as if the four corners and sides of that simple rectangle create a smaller version of the world we live in. A world in which the potential to find strength, peace and clarity exists. On my mat, I am stable, free to make mistakes and open to whatever comes. Coming to my mat gives me space to process my feelings- no matter what they may be- and experience a deeper connection to my body and mind. Whether moving through poses or sitting in stillness, being on a mat allows me to stop being busy, pause and create a deeper bond with a single moment in time.
I have found myself on my mat on some of the best days of my life… and some of the worst. There have been times where I felt I could achieve anything and soar into a steady dancer pose with ease. At other times, I have done little more than recline on my back is savasana and breathe. My mat has caught many tears and even more sweat. It has provided a safe place to move through the difficult times and into the sweeter moments in life. Whether related to yoga postures, such as holding my first crow for more than a fraction of a second, or providing safe space for me to process complicated emotions, my mat has allowed me to develop my own practice of mindfulness and consequently be able to share it with others. Simply put, my mat feels like home.
It Doesn’t Need to Be a Mat
I hope that you too have a place where you can visit to find peace amid the busyness of your life. A sanctuary. A haven. A spot where you feel closer to understanding your place in this crazy and confusing world. For me, this place is my yoga mat. And while, I did not realize it during those first few classes where my etiquette was far from desirable, those first few visits to my mat would change the course of my life. Each mat that I visited from that moment forward would help me transform into who I am in this moment. While a true “yogi” does not need a mat to practice asana or meditation, I prefer to have mine nearby… perhaps less as a tool and more as a reminder of my journey.
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