"Lay down your mat. This is your sanctuary. It is the white silk flag that you raise to yourself when you want to give up or drop out. It recognises you and will hold your body. It knows you showed up to be with yourself, to be present, and it permits you to be you. It doesn't mind that you ushered peace out the door or that you are fear-stained. It doesn't see the extra pounds you carried here, your pettiness or regrets. It will smell like kindness and show you the consequence of truly loving yourself. So, take a moment to thank yourself. This act is another courageous act of dedication. It will turn the willpower you never knew you had into an act of fidelity. Each day you show up to marry your commitment with your faith, you will be rewarded with another footprint in the right direction." -The Inspired Yoga Teacher, by Gabrielle Harris
Ahhh, the yoga mat, also known as the Sacred Space of our yoga practices. You can find so much magic within you by practicing yoga. So when I have the honor of teaching yoga to someone who has never been on a yoga mat, I get filled with excitement as I explain this new exciting relationship that is about to be formed.
The relationship between a yogi and their yoga mat is one of the most beautiful relationships someone can establish at the beginning of their yoga journey.
When I first began my yoga practice, I had little confidence in myself, let alone faith in myself while on my mat. I was easily distracted and would compare myself to everyone around me. I did not like my body, how it would hang in downward facing dog, or just being unable to do the yoga poses. I was challenging myself to get into certain yoga positions, and that meant I had to fight to breathe because my body would fall on top of me. It seemed as though all of my flaws were suddenly right in front of my face. I was not too fond of this feeling, so I started to avoid the things that made me feel uncomfortable, which was a lot. I was a big girl (close to 200 pounds), my yoga clothes fit differently, and my body did not move like all these other girls were moving their bodies. There was so much comparison when my practice first began. The more I stepped onto my yoga mat and heard what my teachers were saying during our class, the more I discovered that yoga is much more than I expected and that maybe there was a lot of programming I needed to un-program.
How do you form a relationship with your yoga mat? You might be thinking. I first had to understand a yoga mat's purpose along my journey. I learned that my yoga mat was serving as a tool that offered me space. But first, I had to learn that nothing mattered besides me and my yoga mat. My teachers showed me that when I was going to roll out my yoga mat, I was creating a space to heal, a space to expand my mind, a space to understand myself, a space to hold me up and ground me, allowing me to find my balance and catch me if I fall.
These new mindsets allowed me to pull my mind back to myself. My new journey provided me with a new best friend. My yoga mat wasn't judging me and what I was trying to do or accomplish. Instead, it encouraged me to return and try again, knowing it wasn't going anywhere. I became protective over my sacred space and became much more mindful of the energy it connected with.
The yoga mat creating a healing space for you is not its only purpose in creating space. It also shows others your space. We should be mindful of others' space, just as we would want others to be mindful of our space. Some consider their yoga mat a metaphysical fence or a boundary. We don't need a yoga mat to practice yoga; however, if we are in a large class and no one uses a mat, others are likely to enter your space when you are trying to do inner work, in addition to other reasons. During class, my safe space was a space that other yogis respected. I found that I wouldn't want to touch other people's yoga mats, nor did I want anyone to touch mine, and they didn't. A yoga mat for everyone in a classroom environment provides everyone with a knowing space everyone respects. It allows you more space to be free from distractions or energy exchanges.
So wherever I place my yoga mat, I will have my personal space to practice. When I roll out my yoga mat, I open a safe space to practice and get to know myself—the freedom to venture within my mind. A solid relationship with that I have established a lot of trust.
Crazy to imagine that I still have and use my first yoga mat, which I purchased over ten years ago. Surprisingly, I have been shopping for something new, but it has to be a perfect mat to replace BREATHE.