By Richelle Morgan
Each time I step onto my mat, it’s a brand new experience. Some days I feel like a rock star. Strong, fluid, graceful, on top of the world. Other days… meh, not so much. I’m awkward, tired, unfocused and completely out of tune with my body, breath, and spirit. We all have those days. Where we want to crawl back under the covers and play hooky from life, but it’s on those days that experience has taught me that I need my practice the most. That the mere act of stepping onto my mat would help shift my perspective. And that I didn’t have to be a rock star everyday… that I was enough and exactly where I needed to be.
But I didn’t always feel this way. I used to step onto my mat as though I were competing… I needed to be stronger, push harder, dig deeper. I didn’t listen. I wasn’t connected to what was going on with my body, my soul, my heart. Fast forward to injury, frustration, and self-depreciation. I now know that the only competition I was in was with myself and my ego. In those early days of my practice, I had heard that what happens on your mat reflects what’s going on off your mat. In that time I was overworked, stressed, scattered, and dulled by my life, and I scoffed at that idea. The physicality of my practice was creating a blanket for me to hide under and my ego was leading the way.
And then one day, every changed. It started out as a simple home practice. A typical morning following an online podcast. Moving, breathing, flowing and then I was asked to pause in Warrior ll. To settle in and get cozy, as I like to say. Alignment cues were given. And then a bombshell was dropped. Five minutes. We were going to stay here for five minutes and notice what came up. My monkey mind started to chatter, loud and clear. The heat in my front thigh began to simmer. And every excuse I could think of was surfacing to tempt me out of the pose. But I chose to stay in the pose. I chose to notice, to pay attention to the voice inside my head. To really and truly listen to what my body was telling me. I settled into my breath, relaxed my shoulders, and turned the volume down on the conversation happening inside me. And in those brief five minutes, it happened. Yoga happened. A light bulb went off and as I allowed myself to just be, I became more aware. I realized that I was allowing my habits off my mat to make their way onto my mat. That my excuses, my tendency to push too much, to scatter myself too thin, to judge and criticize myself for not doing, giving, being enough had made it’s way into my practice. And it was up to me to flush it out.
That simple practice of staying present in the pose, of paying attention to what my body is capable of changed my practice. I have always taught self-love, self-appreciation, and believing in your inner strength and nourishing it so that it grows, but in those days I was not teaching myself those same beliefs. Once I started to pay attention, to really connect to the details of my asanas, to develop quality over quantity, to give myself credit each and every time I made the choice to step onto my mat, a shift happened. Clarity was born and what I was creating on my mat started to mirror itself in my daily life. I became more grounded, focused, stronger and engaged. I opened my heart to let life and all it’s messy splendor find its way in. It wasn’t easy and it meant facing the darker sides of myself. But I knew that if I dug in and continued on this path, after the storms cleared, I would be able to face life’s challenges with a quiet strength and the knowledge that I was enough.
So the next time you step onto your mat, take notice. Take a moment and just be. And then as you start to move, pay attention to the habits you’ve created. To the voice that rises when things get uncomfortable. Try to stay in a pose a little longer and focus on the quality of your breath, the details in your alignment. And when that little voice comes up that self-judges, criticizes or tempts you out of the pose, turn the volume down with love, a soft smile and quiet strength. And know that you are exactly where you need to be.
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Richelle Morgan is a wanderlusting yogi, teacher, coach and mama to three dogs and a cat. She lives & teaches from the heart, embracing stumbles, challenges and triumphs along the way as an opportunity to learn and grow stronger. Her sense of adventure, playfulness and attention to alignment weaves itself throughout her teaching and she encourages her yogis to have fun on their mats as they push beyond their perceived boundaries. In 2010, her lust for travel and adventurous soul found her hosting her first yoga retreat on the beaches of Tulum, Mexico, where she now lives, teaches, and plays.
Photo credit: Lululemon