My Mat is a Liferaft

My mat is a liferaft…a beautiful vessel that keeps me grounded, even on water. My sweat (and often tears) keep the tide below me high enough to keep my raft afloat. My mat is a “liferaft” is the best thing I heard this week. Thank you Jen Portman! I’ve made the statement “yoga saved my life” on many occasions, yet I have never made this analogy. As my busy life has been swirling around me over the last few weeks, I was away from my consistent, daily practice. Before I drifted too far, I knew I had to get back to that which always makes me feel most stable and strong in mind, body and spirit.

I have felt stuck and stiff and not sure how to free myself. Daily practice relieves me from this bodily tension, but daily practice had been a challenge. While joyful, personal events of the past few weeks have left my energy store depleted, my body unyielding, my head congested and my heart achey. Knowing it’s all connected, I’m forced to examine how they can work as a team supporting each other. I believe that the body is a messenger for the soul. As I feel aches and pains, how am I addressing this tension in the body, or am I flat out ignoring it? Allowing it to deepen, worsen…and what does that say about emotional pain? How I am treating that? Am I ignoring that too? What can I let go of to lighten the load and become more buoyant?

The last few weeks have been hectic in my house with end-of-school-year events and celebrations, birthdays, a lot of extra teaching gigs, father’s day and weekend guests. While I have managed to get on my mat each day, the level of practice to which I’ve grown accustomed and to which I count on for balance in all aspects of my life has definitely been lacking. Most of my energy was going to others and I was not balancing that by fortifying my own reserve. As soon as I could I dove back into my daily practice. The first few classes found me really in tune to how my physical body was feeling: stiff, achey, stagnant, congested and exhausted, just to name a few. And as has been my learned behavior after this many years of consistent practice, I thought about what my physical body was telling me about my heart and mind. Sure enough, I encountered more of the same aches, stagnation and exhaustion. I found the stiffness, the lack of lift and buoyancy, completely reflective of what was going on off my “liferaft”.

On my mat, healing happens. It’s my liferaft. On it I first consider all that affects my physical body. What steps do I take to ease these feelings, and can the same strategy be applied to managing the mental, emotional, spiritual health? As in the way physical pain can signal the need to dial down your physical efforts, I could ease up on myself mentally and emotionally, allowing a break from pressure and the guilt that so often accompanies it. I can deepen the breath. There is always an option for a specific breathing exercise, but at the very least, make a conscious, attentive effort to breathe with intention. The effectiveness of breath to calm the mind as well as the body is well documented. I wonder if I am sleeping enough, and what the quality of that sleep is. I could meditate more often.

I am back on track with nine consecutive days of strong dedicated practice, and as my body has responded with beautiful pliability, so have my heart, mind and spirit. As my body returns to a state of greater openness and freedom, the rest are eager to follow. I’m learning that despite whatever chaos invades, at the least I have to maintain this dedication and devotion to my practice for all the benefits it provides. Recognizing that yes, sometimes life gets in the way, but in order to stay afloat we must have that liferaft nearby. On it we are able to ride the waves of prana, within our practice and within our lives.


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