I love to talk about “Off the Mat” yoga. Basically, it’s the concept that yoga is a metaphor for life. If what you do on the mat doesn’t help you off of the mat… well then, what are you doing it for?
For the first couple of years that I taught yoga, it wasn’t helping me off of the mat. It was purely a physical practice. I wasn’t learning to become less competitive, more reflective, less judgmental, and more accepting – I was just stretching.
A great yoga teacher (shout out to Gena Heminover!) helped me to start seeing yoga as so much more than that. That was when I truly fell in love with the practice and when I started to change from the inside out. There are so many parallels to draw from…
In yoga as in life, everything becomes easier to endure with a deep breath. In yoga as in life, you’ll enjoy yourself more and be more successful if you stop looking around to see what everyone else is doing and just focus on what you are doing. In yoga as in life, you can always adjust and transform in order to create a better space for yourself.
That last one, adjusting and transforming in order to create a better space for yourself, is one that I take off of the mat with me often. I’ve learned that my world becomes a happier, more peaceful place when I make tiny adjustments to the way I think, the way I interact with others, and the way I respond to the world around me.
This morning as I walked my precious fur child, I listened to my absolute favorite podcast ever: Happier with Gretchen Rubin. I highly recommend it, especially if you are like me and you enjoy practical, everyday advice without all of the fluff. Today’s topic was “Are You the Difficult One?” and it totally made me think about off the mat yoga because it was all about asking yourself the hard questions and making adjustments to your own behavior in order to be happier.
How often do we find ourselves wishing other people would behave differently in order for us to be happier? But we have no control over that. We only control what we do, how we behave.
In the podcast, Gretchen had a list of questions to ask yourself to see if you, in fact, might be the difficult person. One that really resonated with me was;
- Do you think it’s important to express your true views and feelings authentically even if that means upsetting other people?
I think this is an area where our whole world could use some off the mat yoga, especially in this social media age. Authenticity is a big buzz word these days. The phrase “real talk” gets thrown around a lot. People are embracing vulnerability and speaking their truth. I think that is great! But not all the time…
If I’m being honest with myself, I used to be a pretty difficult person. Now I’m nowhere near perfect, nor will I ever be, but I can confidently say that I’ve made huge improvements in this area which I believe are noticeable to those who I interact with regularly. I’ve certainly noticed the difference in myself. Anyways, this tendency to be “difficult” is a big part of my personality that I got from my dad. We’re both a little too opinionated and we refuse to kiss anyone’s @$$. We don’t shy away from controversy. We say what we mean and we mean what we say. Sometimes we have a little too much fun ruffling feathers.
But the thing I’ve learned is, even though none of that is inherently “bad”, it doesn’t necessary lead to happiness either. What it does lead to is a lot of conflict. My off the mat yoga over the last year or so has helped me to see that there are very few situations in life that truly justify being difficult. Sometimes it’s necessary but most of the time, it is so much more worth it to hold back and “check myself” for a greater purpose, That greater purpose being less hurt feelings, less regret, less DRAMA…and more peace.
Just because it’s true, doesn’t mean it needs to be said.
Just because you feel it, doesn’t mean you need to express it.
Just because you’re hurting, doesn’t mean you need to hurt others.
Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.
What little adjustments could you make to the way that you speak, post, respond, and just generally “bump into” others in order to make a more peaceful space in this world for yourself?