How does yoga influence my life off my mat? As a mother? As a writer?
I recently had the joy of interviewing with Meg Sirchio of Perennial Yoga and Wisdom Community in Fitchburg, WI. She asked me to reflect on this very question. In the moment, I think I told her a story about how we taught our four year old to use “lions breath” (breathe out loudly from the mouth as if fogging up an entire mirror—try it!) as a way to express frustration and calm his energy. He has gotten quite good at it, and is rather loud at times. I think I’ll teach him to practice “Om” next—a way to reintroduce the focus on calming energy, perhaps.
What I realized in thinking more about the question of how yoga influences my life off my mat, I came to understand:
If yoga and meditation is a quest for wisdom;
If yoga and meditation is a practice of compassion, of balance, of inward listening;
Then I am a yogi.
I practice compassion, balance, and inward listening.
I am on a quest for wisdom.
Wisdom comes in many forms and comes to us in many ways.
After several years of practice (starting in graduate school), and nearly 2 years of dedicated practice at Perennial Yoga and Wisdom Community, I have learned to live yoga on and off my mat.
Living yoga off my mat means practicing compassion toward everyone (including myself), finding calm and balance amidst a storm through concentrated breath and asana (e.g., sun salutation) practice, and celebrating my beautiful spirit.
I practice compassion toward myself by allowing. I am empathetic toward myself when I become distracted, when I make mistakes, and when I am otherwise dissatisfied with myself. By learning to be more empathetic toward myself, I am more capable of being compassionate toward others.
Children ask for tenderness in their serene gaze, in their temper tantrums, their tears, the tremble of their lips, their smile, and their angelic state in their sleep. I seek to parent from a place of love and sensitivity.
And when I don’t practice compassion, I notice it. I recall a focus on compassion. Then, the next experience is yet another opportunity to practice kindness. This is the practice of yoga.
Live from my center, heart forward.
I live from the true, wholehearted center of my being. And to find the center is to practice balance. As a wise yoga instructor explained,
Balance is the mindful distribution of energy.
Embrace an expression that draws the heart forward. I listen, and seek to find balance from this heart center. This is the practice of yoga.
Be the best.
I am perfect.
Not in the ~wordly~ sense as you might think.
Instead, I am perfect from an inward stance.
There is no judgment in the realm of awareness.
Yet when I do fall into a trap of judgment and dissatisfaction, I practice.
I notice, I breathe, I allow, I act from my true intentions.
For that which is false will dissolve.
In short, my practice teaches me how to be the best possible version of myself.
Living yoga off my mat doesn’t necessarily mean I’m doing poses wherever I go—although I do more often than not sit in lotus or pigeon pose, and sleep lying down in tree pose—it means I seek wisdom and live from my heart to find it.