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Yoga: It All Happens on the Mat

Updated on February 21, 2015

What You Intend to Do is What You Get

They say that what you do on your mat is a microcosm of what you do in your life. And what things you change on your mat you change in your life off the mat.

If you want more stamina, you do poses that help with stamina.

If you feel unbalanced in your life off the mat; you try to focus on balancing poses.

If you are an emotional mess; one who gets distracted and upset very easily. You practice focus and equanimity on your mat, especially during the meditation part of the yoga.

To the yogi, the mat is very important. It's where you learn things about your self and it's a place where you can work on changes. It's all in your intention. If you intend to work on changes, and what changes you choose to work on, then you will see them on the mat. If you do yoga without intention, well, it may not be as productive.

Joe, the Angry Yogi

Joe walks in the studio with a scowl on his face and approaches yoga as if he is going to boot camp. Marlee, our smiling and gracious yoga instructor, gently tells us to remember to breathe. Joe throws his thick, heavy mat down and does some back stretches. Joe is a hard worker, installs drywall for a living, and in yoga class he strains and struggles with each pose; he groans and grunts through every asana. "Yoga's supposed to be pleasant," Marlee reminds us. "Yoga is supposed to be done with ease and grace and self-compassion." Marlee reminds the class to use slow, even breaths that will help us to flow from pose to pose. Joe can’t hear yoga’s spiritual message yet and lumbers and trudges through like he is doing some unforgiving job.

With time, Joe will learn to find patience on his yoga mat. He will eventually get the message that anger and yoga doesn't mix. He will learn about equanimity and self-love. He will slow down and will be mindful of his breath and his movements. His anger will slowly dissolve on the mat.

Carrie, Needs More Strength

Carrie, unlike Joe, always has a smile. She is fluid and graceful in her movements like a ballet dancer. She feels her breath in each movement. Her pace is even and her practice is beautifully balanced. She approaches her mat with love and care, placing her mat down in a gentle way, mindful of the presence of others. She welcomes the sitting pose and starts her pranayama breath. She smiles with each pose, reaches up to the sky like a growing flower in trikonasana, in down dog she rests her weight equally between her hands and her feet. She lingers in shavasana, savors the resting moment.

Carrie does struggle with side plank and other arm poses. In her life off the mat she is sometimes too good--not strong enough to say "no." She needs to work on her strength in yoga, especially upper body strength and developing her throat chakra. She will learn to speak up and get what she needs on and off the mat.

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Phil is a Persistent Yogi

Carrie brings her husband to yoga, Phil. He struggles with each pose but he is wise enough to know that he needs props. He knows his weaknesses; he understands his lack of flexibility. So he reduces his struggle with blankets, belts and blocks. He sticks a blanket under his butt so his back doesn’t cave or under his hip for support in pigeon. He uses the wall to do the tree. Despite his challenges, he still smiles and tries because he knows that yoga helps him and he goes to yoga with the love of his life, but he doesn't go because of Carrie, he goes for himself. Carrie will often help Phil, whispering and giving a gentle touch. “Legs hip width distance,” she reminds Phil.

Phil is a good student. He has always searched for flexibility in his life. He tries to break out of his rigid work and personal schedule. He works on flexibility on his mat--doing hip openers and taking classes from different instructors.

Sarah, Finding Her Future

Sarah is 21 and enters the yoga studio with her bouncy, youthful energy. She puts her Lululemon mat on the floor and enthusiastically prepares for the yoga session. She brings her legs up and over her head into plow pose. She does reclining hero and lays back slowly and gives a quiet sigh. She will do all poses effortlessly. She has been a gymnast in high school and she loved it. Yoga is a way of continuing her passion for gymnastics. She attends yoga daily and arrives on time and will pack up her mat quickly and move on to her next daily task. She likes her yoga rigorous and fast and challenging. She can maintain a handstand for 5 minutes and comes into side crow seamlessly. She is working on her 200 hours as a yoga teacher while she finishes her pre-med course requirements at college.

Yoga helps her move into her future in a mindful and passionate way. Her intention is to have a great future, one in which yoga will always play a major part--as well as help other parts of her self blossom and develop.

Her experience on the mat gives her the confidence and the discipline to go for what she wants in life..

Yoga Prepares You to Relax and Meditate


Yoga Prevents Caretaker Burnout

Mary has been doing yoga for the past twenty five years. It has always been a source of refuge for her. She takes care of her physically disabled mother who was partially paralyzed in a car accident. Marlee is a retired nurse, never been married, and is a loving and devoted daughter. She also loves yoga and her time on the mat has become a calm and resting place for her after the draining hours she spends caring for her mother. She is mindful of the moment, enjoys her sitting meditation and shavasana. Her form is sound after years of instruction and she takes pride in her warrior poses, which she feels strengthens her body.

She stands proudly in mountain pose, lifting her heart toward the sky. Yoga re-energizes and refreshes her. It's a place where she develops her inner and outer strength that helps her to be a more patient caregiver.

Sam: Respects His Body and Authority

And there’s Sam. He's a tall and quiet 45 year old man who prefers to put his mat in the back of the room. He refers that part of the studio as the "introvert section." He is a true humble warrior. He does struggle some in coming on the balls of his feet in high lunge and he has to use the block in half moon. But he’s gracious and welcomes adjustments from Marlee and opens his heart to her words of encouragement and wisdom. He served the military as a young man and he respects authority. He shows the same respect for his body and authority on the mat. He always thanks Marlee after each yoga session.

Marlee helps Sam to discover new ways of respecting his body in yoga. Sam doesn't push himself nearly as much on and off the mat. He has developed an ear for what his body needs. He also has learned not to push others as much, and to respect people's limitations and where they are in life.


Yoga: For Staying Young and Beautiful

Carol is the social butterfly of the class. She talks about her husband and teen boys. She has been seeing Marlee since her studio opened. She talks to everyone and is very generous, bringing gifts and donating blocks or belts for the yoga closet.

Carol is extremely wealthy and has a lot of time on her hands. Her husband is a successful litigation attorney and they live in the prestigious beach town. She does two yogas a day, one in the morning and another in the afternoon. She has had numerous body modifications that includes breast and lip implants.

She sees yoga as a place where she can socialize and be around humble people. She sees yoga as a supplement to her other exercises like spinning and Pilates.

Besides working on her outer beauty and her appearance, she works on her inner beauty. She is moving toward understanding that her inner beauty is just as valuable to her.

Yoga: It's Not a Competitive Sport

Then there’s Mike. Mike is currently attending college and he works part time at Killer Shrimp. He comes into yoga hellbent on being the best yogi in the room. He wants to get through his vinyasa quicker than you can say Kundalini. And for the first half of the yoga session he is a wiz. After a half dozen vinyasas, he starts to sweat profusely and fizzles out. And when it comes to half moon or the hand balancing poses like side crow, his arms will buckle and his body will crash to the floor like a pelican diving into water.

I feel for Mike. He approaches everything like it is a competitive sport. His idea of doing well doesn’t jive with yoga. His approach is misguided. Marlee has talked to him in private about relaxing and enjoying yoga and slowly easing into the session--remembering to breathe and smile and to have fun.

Marlee is hopeful that what he learns on the mat will help his life to flow more smoothly and with more joy.

Monica: Wants to be Healed on the Mat

Monica brings her many ailments to the mat. She will cough throughout the yoga session and often will cough up phlegm into a tissue which she has pilled up next to her mat like an Egyptian pyramid. She also has GERD. If coughing up phlegm isn’t enough, she belches every few seconds.

It is difficult for Monica to lie on her back in savasana, so she lies on her side.

Monica struggles in yoga to keep herself physically together. During meditation she thinks of her internal organs and their malfunction. Her intention is to feel better physically. Her intention is to heal herself and she understands that yoga is just one small part of that.

The class is patient with her and hopeful that she can overcome some of her ailments.

Yoga Can Transform You

In Yoga you have to let go of the distractions--both internal and external distractions.

You focus on your practice and not others. The same is true off the mat.

The yoga class, led by the teacher, helps you to focus on yourself in a more compassionate and non-judgmental way.

Being on the mat is about you, not your fellow yogis and yoginis.

Everyone brings in a different intention and a different focus.

Your yoga is about you transforming into the kind of person you want to be. It’s a process that starts with an honest appraisal of yourself and then leads you into a journey where patience and equanimity can be found.

Yoga is a place where you can change you life; where you can transform yourself into the wonderful person you really are. It is a place to make adjustments, to balance imbalances, calm your emotions and to develop the flexibility that will serve you life well. Yoga has the capability to help you with many of you goals and dreams.

But first you have to get on the mat.



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    • Mark Tulin profile image

      Mark Tulin 4 months ago from Santa Barbara, California

      Thanks for your comment, hari. Great way to get the blood flowing and the joints lubricated. After several years of regular practice, I tend to walk more upright and I am much more flexible.

    • shprd74 profile image

      Hari Prasad S 4 months ago from Bangalore

      A great hub to encourage the people to start doing yoga and making it a habit and routine in their life.

      I do few asanas that help me get distressed. I am though not a regular in it but it is for sure the easiest and most handy form of revitalizing mind and body.

      Great hub. Thanks for writing it mark.

      - hari