The importance of making it to your mat.
When you practice yoga consistently for a while, you’ll notice that there are moments when things shift, when your practice deepens. One of these shifts occurred for me when I moved to Arizona, seven years ago. I had left my friends and family and did not know a soul there, but I had a gym membership through work, so I spent a lot of time exercising and taking yoga classes.
The Saturday vinyasa class was taught by a guy who was notoriously, well, a little bit unfriendly—rough around the edges, hardly ever smiled. Yet week after week I attended his class. I wasn’t sure why. Maybe because I didn’t have anything better to do, or maybe because it just felt so good on my body. Months into the class, I was pretty sure that the instructor still didn’t even know my name.
One day I inadvertently arrived 20 minutes late. I was mortified. The teacher gave me a slight nod, and I spent the whole remainder of the practice worrying that I’d made him mad, embarrassed that I’d lost track of time, feeling ashamed for having interrupted. Afterward, I rolled up my mat and approached him, sheepishly, to tell him that I was sorry. He stopped my excessive apologies and said, simply, “glad you made it.
That was all. End of discussion. I had shown up. In that moment, from that gruff teacher, I learned that my yoga practice was my own. I wasn’t doing it to please other people, or to achieve anything at all. I was practicing yoga because my body had things to teach me.
When I struggle in my life—and I certainly still do--with wanting to be perfect, wanting to always be on time and to strive beyond expectations, I am reminded over and over again to start by simply “showing up.” In asana, or the physical practice of yoga, this can mean staying in restorative poses to bring healing to injury, and it can also mean safely finding the edges of advanced poses so that we can deepen further into them. In meditation, it can mean tuning inwardly, quieting our minds so that we can ever more steadily live our lives from a place of truth.
Every single time that you show up to your own yoga practice, you give yourself a tremendous gift. Breathe, and everything shifts.
- Laura Stengrim