My journey in yoga started with my own personal love and passion to practice. At first, it felt like more of a militant practice, but over time it became more practical, where I left class feeling "organized" in my mind.
But I soon realized the more I practiced, the more my world became separated. Yoga was filled with my yoga friends, and then there was everyone else. The more I studied and learned yoga, the more I felt out of place in the rest of the world. I loved the feeling of being on the mat. It was a place of endless possibilities, a safe creative environment to be open and expressive. I looked forward to yoga retreats and weekends of intense study. After traveling with my teachers and immersing myself in the yoga spirit, coming home was disorientating. The two worlds were so different. To me, the "real world" was on the mat, and everything else was, well, not as exciting.
This was a hard time for me -- the separation from the free expressive life on the mat to the world I lived in. Any kind of separation is a cause of confusion. I soon realized, probably out of necessity, that this separation, this confusion, was unsustainable. The two split worlds would eventually collide. It was terribly unsettling. I was forced to start looking for an easier way to transition between my worlds, or maybe even connect them.
Aren't we all faced with this choice in some form or another?
I thought about my musician friends who told me how hard it was to travel on the road. They would immerse themselves into their craft, experience life-changing emotional and spiritual highs, only to return home to their family and feel alone. Can the family ever understand our internal joy and even more, our current sadness?
How can we manage these transitions? Of course, you can do yoga, meditation and breath-work in your own at home as I did. That routine helped. But there was more. I used my uneasiness as another opportunity to evolve and grow. I decided to experiment with these moments of transition and realized I was not alone. I discovered there were others who confessed to being "lost in transition." There are always one or two people who walk on the same path, people with whom we can share our experiences, and that was a relief. They too were longing to find ways to integrate their special experiences and insights into their ordinary lives. This is what I now call "Yoga Off the Mat."
How could I cultivate patience with my loved ones, for instance, and more importantly, myself? I kept looking for the high feeling achieved after a deep yoga practice. The elation is a drug. It is more than just a feeling; it is biochemical. I asked myself, what is unattractive about ordinary, everyday life? Well, that was easy to answer ... the things we all have to deal with such as the bills, diapers, arguments, and dare I say, responsibility!! This part of life was far from the elated energy I was feeling on the mat.
My 17-year-old son asked me, "Mom, what is life? Is it about the next achievement? My SATs, getting into college, finding a job, working, and then paying off debt? That's not living." I looked at him with a smile and said, "Yes, all of that is a part of life." I do not have a magical answer; at the end of the day what is important to me is bringing all the wonderful and great ideas that I learned in my yoga life into my real life. When I blended what I loved into how I lived, bringing what I learned on the mat and moving it into my "real" life, I began to feel true freedom. That was when I began to live.
True FREEDOM comes with confinement. That's what my teachers always emphasized. The gurus would always say, "God is everywhere, even when things are difficult."
Yoga Off the Mat is where we see the light, the high, the excitement that we experience on the mat and blend it into everything we do. We can find it in cooking dinner for our kids, taking a walk outside in the rain, and even find beauty in throwing out the garbage. When we find the joy in the small things, it just seems we will be more prepared to handle the big things when they come our way. After ten years of deep dedication to yoga, I revisited my Buddhist teacher and said, "I feel like I was away from here for such a long time and now I am ready to be here with everything I learned." A warrior with an open heart, I now know, is someone who chooses to be here in this life, to live in the present with everything that is in front of us, approaching it all in a mindful way.
This is Yoga Off the Mat.
With love and blessings,
For more by Osi Mizrahi, click here.
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