coming to your mat in the darkest of times

practice yoga mat difficult bad day depressed

I’ve recently come across a lot of people saying they are having a hard time getting onto their mat. These people have similar reasons: the sudden or expected loss of a loved one, or the downward cycle of depression.

We often hear that the yoga pose we avoid at all costs is the one we need the most. I’ve come to believe this about yoga in general. But this doesn’t mean that we have to force ourselves to finish all of primary series, an hour-long hot yoga session, or remain in our yin yoga postures until we have lost all physical sensation in some part of our bodies.

What we do by avoiding our mat, by watching Youtube videos of random people’s daily lives or sinking into the sofa in an effort to bury us far away from our most unwanted feelings is that we are avoiding giving attention to that which needs it the most: our darkness.

But when getting on your mat seems like an arduous task, because you don’t want to face those uncomfortable emotions just under the surface or you’re afraid of what will come up or even afraid of beating yourself up if your practice is shorter than what your expect of yourself, remember that yoga goes beyond the movements we perform on our mat, and that through this solo dance, we give attention to the emotions we are avoiding and transform our reality.

I feel an ache in my heart when someone says they just can’t get on their mat, because I, like everyone else, knows what grieving and depression are. When we feel so alone in our darkness, perhaps it is precisely that time alone on the island of our yoga mat that we need the most. So if you are feeling like rolling out your mat is just too hard to do right now, take it out, place it on the floor and take a moment to remember the following:

1. #yogaeverydamnday. The hashtag carries good advice, so whether your practice ends up being 20 seconds, 20 minutes or 2 hours, just roll out your mat and stand there. Listen to what your heart wants and needs and then do it, with faith and without judgement.

2. A yoga practice does not need to be long, sweaty, exhausting or cathartic. Sometimes a yoga practice is standing in mountain pose and just being with yourself in the present moment, or allowing yourself to return to the womb in child’s pose. If that is all you do today, you still did your practice.

3. It’s your practice. We follow along to instructional videos or our teacher in the studio, but in the end, learning to own your body’s movements and self-expression on the mat helps you to own even the darkest of emotions while they ebb and flow like the ocean. And they always ebb and flow.

4. Yoga means “union”, so if you are grieving the loss of a loved one, dedicate your practice to them and make them your partner once more on your own personal dance floor. If it’s depression that has isolated you, bring to mind all the other people in any near or far location on this earth who are feeling the same as you right now and dance with them too.

Yoga will not erase negative thoughts or strong emotions, but it saves us from the resistance, by giving us the space to witness what happens inside of us, to accept ourselves, to accept both the darkness and the light and to appreciate that since our time on this planet is just a lifetime, we might as well come home to ourselves in the present moment and dance with what is.

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