Practical yoga lessons that go beyond the mat

In October, Markus and I would be yoga teachers for three years. Isn’t that cool? Since the pandemic started, there have been no yoga retreats for us but we cultivate the practice at home and continue to learn more about life through it. Today, I thought I would share a few useful lessons on the mat that easily translate to more wellness off the mat.

Let us begin where we are.

Every practice is unique. The postures are our expression of the postures. It does not have to look like anyone else’s. As long as we are using our muscles correctly, then that is just about it. Practicing yoga teaches us to focus on ourselves. We are are own reference points, not others.

We are different every day.

A pigeon pose may feel good on Monday, a challenge on Tuesday, and next to impossible on Wednesday. Our bodies are different every day, so are our minds and spirit. It is normal to have ups and downs on and off the mat. Isn’t it boring if we are the same all the time? There is grace in listening to our bodies and allowing ourselves to just be without judgment.

Distractions, frustrations, and limitations are part of the practice.

In meditation class, students sometimes give up prematurely simply because they think they cannot focus. They chastise their minds for wandering off and feel bad for their inability to practice correctly. But what do they even mean by that?

There is no right or wrong way to meditate, is there? We just sit there and allow what comes to come and let go of what goes. When we notice the mind getting distracted, pull it back to the breathe. It is normal and not a failure. In fact, this is the reason why we keep practicing!

We deserve kindness, too.

Isn’t it fascinating how it is almost automatic for us to support our friends and defend them from negativity coming from themselves or hurled by other people but it sometimes do not occur to us to be nice to ourselves in the same way?

Let us listen to our thoughts and imagine saying similar things to someone we love. Would you do it and find it fair and acceptable? It can honestly be shocking how we treat ourselves sometimes. Down the line, we are all we got. It is time we learn to back ourselves up.

Most of it is learning to let go.

Of expectations, obsessions, resentment, pain, anxiety, projections, tensions, hopes, and on and on it goes. How light can life be if we are not carrying as much? It is not always easy or possible but we can try every day to face it with openness and curiosity, to let it flow than wrestle with it, or force it to take this or that form.

We can find more freedom in letting go. It is hard, of course, that is why we practice. Hopefully, one day we can begin to trust our abilities to handle anything as they come or at least learn to be firm in the knowledge that we will always do the best we can.

I remember reading it somewhere, how birds do not rely on branches not breaking but in their ability to fly. I find a lot of comfort in that thought. Whatever happens, we will be fine.

36 thoughts on “Practical yoga lessons that go beyond the mat

  1. OK so I see it’s me who’s been way behind and you’ve been traveling and doing well for a while so great to see. All caught up and you know I’m a true believer in the yoga path! From a Yogi to you too as well Namaste 🧘‍♀️💗👍🏼

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  2. I have always been an admirer of yoga practitioners, especially when I realised that yoga folk come in all shapes and sizes and from all walks of life. I am also in awe of those who are committed to yoga as I struggle with the practice. I incorporate some of it in my stretching practice and do the best I can.
    It is so gratifying to see that you both practice together – that pose is quite fabulous & inspirational!

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    1. Thank you. It is nice to share the practice, especially to others who think they can’t. I feel like we can all learn and appreciate it in different ways. We just need to find a teacher that can help us learn in the way we can. For example, if O was only exposed to the Bali brand of yoga, I will probably not like it but the approach from India made me fall in love with the practice.

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      1. Yoga is, after all, a very diverse practice. And I hear you – very often the teacher/mentor is very important. In any endeavour, really. Again, back to the human touch.

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    1. At a retreat we organized in Tagaytay pre-pandemic. And yes, we can all try. I think about it sometimes, why we carry these things when technically, we can drop them. But I suppose nothing is that simple. I hope you are having a good time here at home!

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  3. I had a hard time learning to accept that my body was different ever day, rather than always bendier/stretchier than the time before. But I did it!!!
    Amazing pose you guys are doing in the pic!!! I can’t recall if I did that (as the achor) in the Pairs Neon Blacklight Yoga class that I attended.

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    1. Yes, it is a challenge, isn’t it? Some days I get frustrated, too. I just tell myself if I do this correctly now, no matter the expression, tomorrow will be better. This usually helps me calm down. And thank you, that yoga class you attended must have been cool. We are not educated in acro yoga. This is just something we saw on Instagram and wondered if we could do it. It was fun.

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  4. I think I am one of those who give up easily.. I don’t know why but it’s soooo hard for me to focus my attention towards a goal..

    How birds do not rely on branches not breaking but in their ability to fly

    SPOT ON!

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    1. I feel like we are all on the same boat with that one. It does not make it any easier, the fact that nobody really taught us how to focus as children. At least I was not taught, just told to focus. And so it matters to try meditation because it gives us an opportunity to learn it. Are you still able to practice yoga?

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      1. I still do the simple ones, esp. for my posture since i have a bad one.
        Listening to meditation podcast sometimes help me… but still get distracted by simple noise and because people tend to need me a lot during my quiet time 🐯

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        1. Happy to know. The postures really help a lot, especially the simple ones. And I hear you with distractions. In the past, I would get irritated when someone talks to me or asks me to do something while I practice at home but now I realized this is a part of it, too. The challenge is incorporating our practice with the normal turns and craziness of our lives. It is great if we have an hour or a few minutes to dedicate fully to the practice but this is not always the case and we just have to live with it.

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          1. I have read about that in a magazine… meditations daw cannot be distraction free… it’s how you don’t allow these distractions enter your mind while in meditation…
            just like praying, while very intimate with God, biglang magpapasukan sa isip ang bills, tasks, responsibilities, deadlines… ouch… prayer interrupted na…

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    1. Yes, I hear this a lot. People get more worried and stressed out because they want to do it right. In this case, I feel informal ways of meditation can help. It does not have to be the ritualistic type. I feel like anytime we are focused on what we are doing, it is a kind of meditation.

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  5. It is wonderful to hear you be so positive. I’m sure your yoga practice must be helping when added to the network of care that surrounds you! Surrounds us all if we would just listen! Isn’t it wonderful to think that the body is always in the present, so listening to the body, especially the breath, is surely the best way to meditate. Keep well 💐. Ashley 🙋‍♂️

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    1. Actually, I was unable to practice in the last six weeks because I was ill. But that is okay. I am starting to regain health. Of course, I was incredibly upset when I realized I cannot even do yoga and it was a good reminder to listen to my body and give it what it needs. And you are right, our body is in the present. It is just our minds that likes to go off. Haha. Thanks for the well-wishes! How is qi gong going?

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      1. The Qi Gong goes very well although I still have to watch some of the videos to remind myself of the moves. Practice makes perfect so I’m trying to practice every day! The moves are quite simple really, there are moves to increase vitality or for joint health. I’m enjoying it very much 🙏

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  6. Yes, it is cool that both of you are approaching your third anniversay as yoga teachers. Your commitment to yoga is inspiring. I like what you have said here how our bodies are different everyday. I know mine certainly is, and what you said makes a lot of sense not to be so hard on myself because of it. Giving ourselves permission to let go is so important. When we do, the peace of mind thta comes with it is amazing. I wish I had bird like flying abilities re the few times I fell out of a tree as a kid. I must admit I was extremely lucky each time it happened 😂

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    1. Excellent points, Sean. Our bodies will be nothing more than what they are. Forcing the issue will not take us forward. And aren’t we lucky we had the chance to climb trees as children? I find that parents these days are too worried to let their kids have similar experiences. Of course, covid did not help.

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