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Lessons From the Yoga Mat

Updated on February 1, 2020
Alyssa Nichol profile image

Alyssa has a passion for fitness and sharing her favorite tips and tricks with the world. Alyssa is a wife, mom, and coffee enthusiast.

I first discovered the joy of yoga eighteen years ago. Every morning that summer I would get up at 6:50 am just to join Steve Ross and his crew shake and stretch to awesome hits. Once school started in the fall, I was unable to keep up my habit. Over the years, I found myself practicing yoga on and off, but I never committed to a daily practice.

At the ripe old age of 26, I threw my back out doing a simple task in preparation for moving. Plagued with low back pain, I sought relief in the form of YouTube exercise and physical therapy videos. My search led me to Adriene Mishler's channel, Yoga With Adriene. It was love at first cat cow.

As my own fitness journey grew, I found myself creating an Instagram account. While my initial reasoning for returning to this social media platform was not exercise related, I ended up inadvertently creating a fitness account. Fast forward three years and yoga has become a part of my daily routine. I like to put a music playlist on and just move on the mat, listening to my body and allowing the rhythm to inspire my flow. In addition to that, I regularly participate in, and occasionally host, yoga challenges on Instagram. It isn't often that I seek guided practices anymore, with the exception of Adriene's annual 30 day yoga journey.

Every January, Adriene hosts a month long yoga special. I look forward to it every year because it helps remind me why I get on my mat in the first place. It's easy to get caught up in taking a perfect photo for Instagram or to only do a certain pose because a challenge calls for it. Sometimes I get so involved in my online presence that I forget my time on the mat is first and foremost for myself. Adriene's 30 days of yoga series helps ground me and sets the right tone for the new year. Each edition has a different theme and the best part is that it's all available on YouTube for free.

Every time I participate, I write down the things I learned. Some are inspired by the day's practice, others I have to dig deep for, but they all apply to life both on and off the mat.

The following are the lessons I learned from this year's 30 day practice.

Home - A 30 Day Yoga Journey

1. Slowing down is difficult, especially when the body craves more intense movement.

2. Sitting still isn't always feasible and can be a real challenge at times.

3. How we speak to ourselves is important, both on and off the mat.

4. Move with intention.

5. The breath comes first.

6. Activation is part of the awakening process.

Working on shoulder flexibility with a flipped grip in tiger pose.
Working on shoulder flexibility with a flipped grip in tiger pose.

7. The mat is a mirror.

8. Acknowledge the thoughts that come up, the events that happened which have thrown you off, and then return to the breath, to your healthy habits.

9. Savor each moment.

A tree pose variation I've been working on.
A tree pose variation I've been working on.

10. Everything is as it should be.

11. The path to balance lies in the undoing.

12. Listen.

Enjoying the sunshine and focusing on breath work in this camel pose variation.
Enjoying the sunshine and focusing on breath work in this camel pose variation.

13. Balance is my natural state.

14. Where attention goes, energy flows.

15. Keep what makes you happy. Let go of what doesn't serve you.

16. How you move matters.

17. Sometimes a practice won't present a lesson. That's okay.

18. Every day you come to the mat will be different.

19. Accept where you are today.

20. Don't decide where it ends.

"Inhale" yoga with Steve Ross, 2010-04-09


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    • Alyssa Nichol profile imageAUTHOR


      12 months ago from Ohio

      I'm glad to hear that! Thank you for stopping by, Brian!

    • B. Leekley profile image

      Brian Leekley 

      12 months ago from Bainbridge Island, Washington, USA

      After reading this article, Alyssa, I'm considering learning more yoga asanas in addition to a few I learned long ago. I'll have a look at Adriene Mishler's yoga videos on YouTube.

    • Alyssa Nichol profile imageAUTHOR


      12 months ago from Ohio

      It sounds like you are well-rounded in your martial arts training. I've never studied the physical portion, but in the past few years, I've enjoyed learning more about the attitudes, mindset, and overall principles of various martial arts styles. I think Yoga would be a wonderful addition to your training.

    • Nicoartz profile image

      Jason Nicolosi 

      12 months ago from AZ

      Amazing article Alyssa. I studied lots of different forms of martial arts including; Taekwondo, Judo, and my favorite Uechi-Ryu a traditional style of Okinawan karate (like in 'The Karate Kid' movie, lol.). I always had an interest in yoga. Your article was great. Flexibility and balance are also the keys to martial art training. I bet studying yoga would be super beneficial when doing martial arts, there seem to be some similarities.

    • Pamela99 profile image

      Pamela Oglesby 

      12 months ago from Sunny Florida

      Thanks for your comments about yoga in a chair and where to find help.

    • Alyssa Nichol profile imageAUTHOR


      12 months ago from Ohio

      Flexibility is important, as is keeping your muscles supple to help prevent injuries during your training. Yoga is awesome for runners! .. It helps with breath work, focusing, strengthening your muscles, can help you balance out any imbalances you might have, stability, etc.. There's a wide range of benefits. I watch a lot of Papa Swolio on YouTube. His channel is Swolenormous. He's all about the gains and he recommends yoga and meditation for everyone. I recommend checking out his channel for more information and I definitely recommend that you try yoga. It doesn't have to be hot yoga, there are plenty of other options. (and you should keep your other training in mind when seeking out classes. For example, if you are going hard on your marathon training or in the gym, you might lean more toward a yin style class vs something more intense) I also wouldn't worry too much about not being able to do it. If you are in a good class, the teacher will be able to give you modifications.

    • Alyssa Nichol profile imageAUTHOR


      12 months ago from Ohio

      Hahahaha! I have a lot of hair and it gets annoying sometimes, but it also helps hide my flaws. ;) I cannot imagine you having long hair, but I bet it was glorious!

    • Alyssa Nichol profile imageAUTHOR


      12 months ago from Ohio

      Thank you, Bill! Your video idea is brilliant! I never thought of turning this into a video series.. I might have to think on that.

    • Alyssa Nichol profile imageAUTHOR


      12 months ago from Ohio

      Thank you Pamela! Yes, you absolutely can modify poses to do in a chair and I'm sure there are plenty of videos on YouTube for yoga in a chair specifically. I know Adriene has at least one on her channel and she is all about modifying for your body. :)

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      13 months ago from Olympia, WA

      And how do you do yoga with all that hair floating around? lol Believe it or not, during the Flower Child era, I had hair down to my butt. It was quite a sight. Thankfully there are no remaining pictures of that. :)

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      13 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Great name for an ongoing series....Lessons from the Yoga Mat...I can see a series of videos on YouTube...maybe you already do that? Maybe I'm just way behind on information about this....anyway, you are lovely, you know a bunch of stuff, the camera is your friend....I think you need to go Big Time with this....just sayin'

      Happy Saturday, Alyssa!

    • PrometheusIV profile image


      13 months ago

      I’m 6’4”, 245 lbs, and 43 years old. I keep having friends asking me to do hot yoga with them, but am worried that my gym muscle body with minimal flexibility won’t be able to do it all. Plus, I run half marathons and am worried about activities where I put my knees (tendons & ligaments) at risk. Any suggestions?

    • Pamela99 profile image

      Pamela Oglesby 

      13 months ago from Sunny Florida

      I love of yoga really comes through in the article. I imagine you are very healthy due to this choice. I can't do everything you showed due to health problems, but I think I have heard about yoga in a chair.

      Thanks for a very informative article.


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