Taking Yoga "Off the Mat"

How do we interact in our life once we step off the Yoga mat?

Every once in a while, a great frustration builds and makes its way to the surface of a Yoga students mind. During Yoga practice I experience a certain "state of mind". Why is it so difficult to stay in that "state" after I finish my practice? Why does the calmness and serenity dissipate? Where does my clarity and compassionate nature go? I look back at the mat in confusion and wonder: Who am I? Am I the person in there or the person out here? If I declare that my real and authentic identity lies with the righteous fellow there, on the mat, meditating peacefully, then how can I reconcile the anger and rage I feel stuck in this traffic jam?

Consider this: You are at every passing moment a DIFFERNT person! Let us, just for fun, equate "a moment" to a particular perspective you have about yourself or about your life. A changing thought about yourself creates a different "you". To say "in this moment I feel calm" is the same as saying that "with this outlook on life, I feel calm". Even though we use the word 'moment' we can all agree that the ticking of the clock is not what's creating your calm. Permitting yourself to have a neutral or passive attitude (about everything) creates your feeling of "calmness". A moment passes by and so does a point of view. We are left then with an ever- changing identity crisis! A real rollercoaster ride: every thought we have can define ourselves anew.

Here's another mind twister for you: Let go of the element of time completely and simply notice how daylight reflects off of a precious gem. All the varying degrees of light angles bounce off of the object SIMULTANEOUSLY. Identify yourself with the stone - you are a multi-facet diamond dancing in the sunlight. Every angle of light that reflects off of you is an aspect in which you radiate. If we zoom in and introduce the concept of time back into the equation, we find ourselves staring at only one facet and we quickly want to define it: "Ahh, now I am calm". We would like to linger in this moment forever but the diamond turns and the next facet makes itself known through the fabric of time. That is why it seems to us that we are changing. The different aspects of our self are presented in a linear fashion and we tend to favor some aspects more than others! Though in essence, you are a multitude of identities all at once. You are a gleaming, sparkling diamond and you radiate completely from everywhere. That makes you both the person on the mat and off of it at once. Changing the saying "one thing at a time" to "all things at once" is not easy, but it sure broadens the definition of SELF doesn't it?!

Reasoning that we do not want to live in denial and have to pretend that the less than wonderful aspects of ourselves are not "who we really are" - we must stop trying to define ourselves on the basis of our feelings. We experience feelings, we are not them. We are far greater than mere emotions. Having a clear and mature definition of 'who I am' is an awesome key in getting a hold of your feelings. Creating a life's mission- statement is another vital key. For example, when you find yourself in the throws of anger or facing a fearful event, what would happen if you reminded yourself that in this same moment I am also a very very ancient, beloved and wise soul, occupying the greatest temple there is - the human body, for the purpose of my life's mission which is . (declare your mission). Your purpose in life may not be as glamorous as becoming a world leader and saving millions from hunger. Maybe your purpose right now is to nurture your newborn baby, or to fulfill a dream you have had since childhood. Your purpose might simply be self- understanding or becoming the best that you can be. Whatever it is, let it guide your steps. How quickly things fall into place when we remind ourselves to see the greater picture.

Friends, you never have to step off the mat. Don't separate Yoga from your life. It is a contradiction of the definition of the word Yoga - Union. The mat is a microcosm of the thoughts and reactions that we experience in our lives. In Hatha (Physical) Yoga we use the body to create challenges for the mind so that we may become more aware. Life itself is seasoned with challenges already! Use what you learn on the mat in your daily life.

We encounter resistance when we think that things will go on the same way forever. We learn to confront our resistance and develop endurance by recognizing that the nature of reality is impermanent. The asana is always finally released and any life situation is always finally resolved.