Take Your Yoga Practice Off the Mat by Ainslie Mintz

Take Your Yoga Practice Off the Mat

‘Take your yoga practice off the mat.’ This is something yoga teachers say a lot. But what does it really mean? And how does it apply to modern society where hard work is praised and rewarded?

Last week, I woke up feeling completely burnt out. After my personal yoga practice, I spoke with one of my teachers. She told me that I needed to focus on doing 10% less rather than pushing myself so hard. I understood her logic, but of course, I only half-listened to her advice. I decided to take the next morning off which meant I needed to teach four private sessions back-to-back in the afternoon. Yet, that solution didn’t teach me the lesson I was meant to learn. The morning that I ‘took off,’ Vanessa called me frantic about a roof leak in the studio. When I arrived, buckets full of water poured through the ceiling. As my landlord, my super and I scrambled to fix the flood, I delayed canceling the rest of the day because I didn’t want to let anyone down. Finally, in a moment of complete overwhelm surrounded by melted snow, I realized this was an opportunity to decide between pushing myself harder or trying to do 10% less. If I pushed myself more, I would continue my day with buckets on the floor and ultimately delay fixing the problem until the next day when it worsened. Or I could try doing 10% less – reschedule the privates and deal with the problem right then and there.

There is a point at which working too hard becomes too much for the nervous system.

In yoga, we practice allowing the postures to be both steady and sweet. As Patanjali says, Sthira Sukham Asanam. And what we learn on the yoga mat can be transferred into everyday life. For example, I feel embarrassed to admit to others when I need to take a break. On the mat, I have no problem resting in child’s pose, but off the mat, I feel uncomfortable letting others down. The steadiness is learning to do 10% less both on and off the mat. The sweetness is reaping the rewards of a break and resting my nervous system. The week after the leak, I prioritized getting a massage and I took two days off to catch up on chores. It felt amazing.

I invite you to take a break when you need it. Try doing 10% less and see what happens. Perhaps the quality of your interactions will improve. Or perhaps you’ll feel more present to the activities you truly enjoy.

The workshops and training sessions we have in April are the perfect place to practice taking a break when you need to. Every time I take the time to be fully present in yoga, I am rewarded in the most beautiful, unexpected ways. Thank you for being a part of my journey, sometimes it’s graceful, sometimes it’s not.  🙂