Why Do I Practice Yoga?
and why I have a yoga mat in front of my kitchen sink?
People ask me all the time why I practice yoga. There are so many new exercise options out there — and they just keep coming. You can beat the ground with a drumstick, punch a bag like a boxer, ride in complete darkness. You can have people half your age scream encouragement at you and push you to limits you never thought you could reach.
What’s so great about a plain old yoga mat, no other special gear, and moving your body through ancient shapes? How can something thousands of years old still be relevant (and worth my time) today?
For me, it’s simple. I feel like the very best version of myself when I am on my mat. Period.
No matter what I bring to the mat each day, it only takes a few minutes before it starts to fall away. The layers of doubt, frustration, tension, and distraction peel away. With each sun salutation, I feel connected both with my breath and body — and also to everyone else in the room. I feel stronger and softer at the same time.
And, by the way, no one has ever used the word “flexible” to describe me in any way physically. My muscles were born short and crave tightness. I am the Tin Man through and through. If I can practice yoga … anyone can. I often wonder what my body would be like if I didn’t?
Don’t get me wrong — I love trying out other modalities.. I’m a Scorpio, get bored easily, and always crave a challenge. I believe we should move our bodies in functional ways, challenging the muscles in new directions all the time. But, I yoga will always be my home base.
5 ways yoga is different for me
Without the breath, there is no yoga. In some traditions, the word yoga comes from the word “union” or “to yoke” — to connect the breath to the body, perhaps. Or, to connect the self to the all. When I practice yoga, I love that I am constantly reminded to breathe. The simple reminder to pay attention on purpose (my definition of mindfulness) is powerful. When I leave my mat, my mind is better trained to pay attention on purpose, and actually to use my breath in challenging situations.
2. Yoga is an “inside job”.
One of the lightbulb moments in my early yoga journey was a teacher who said that “we practice yoga from the inside-out”. Most of the traditional shapes (asana) of yoga were created to help heal the organs, systems, joints, and ailments of the physical body. In my vast and varied past exercise options, the purpose and focus always seemed to be external. “Do this, and you get great abs.” While this was momentarily exciting, I ultimately felt connected to the idea that yoga makes my insides healthier with those great abs simply a by-product. An awesome one, albeit.
3. Undoing the doing.
Yoga moves your body through a series of shapes that you don’t make in your regular day. Each asana in a yoga sequence is there for a particular reason. In our daily lives, we spend much of our time seated, in forward flexion and looking down at a computer, a phone, or the wheel. Yoga aims to “undo” this by taking the spine through different modalities, opening the hips, and basically undoing what we have done all day by balancing out the body for optimal functionality.
4. Belly fat.
I knew I’d get your attention here! Yoga can lower cortisol in your body. Cortisol is the body’s natural stress hormone that’s released during periods of physical or emotional stress. Or, when you reach about 45! If you are like me, that 45 was the magical number where all the stress manifested in the mid-section. The deep breathing and reduction of muscle tension are believed to elicit a relaxation response which lowers cortisol.
5. Yoga is never the same.
As I mentioned, I crave both change and stability at the same time. It seems like the more I learn about a certain shape, the easier and harder it gets. Depending on what I am craving that day, I can find it on my mat. I may need a really grounding and easeful practice after a particularly hectic day. Or, I may seek a challenge and something new in shapes I’ve been doing for years. The flexibility here is key for me. Some days I want to chill and others I want to sweat it out and take myself to my own limit.
Everyone has their own reasons.
I know that when I am on my mat, I feel whole … like the best version of me that day. I also know when I am in front of the kitchen sink (all too often), I’m less than at my best. I decided to put a yoga mat in front of the sink. The simple act of stepping on my mat reminds me to breathe, be present, and helps take yoga into my everyday life. I have a feeling my family also hopes this “magic carpet yoga mat” brings the best version of me, too!
Why is there a mat in front of the sink?
and, ye s— the two dogs are the cutest!