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Cultivating Peace Through YOGA

I have been eagerly anticipating week 3 of Peace Month, because this week we are diving into one of my absolute favorite things – YOGA.

The yoga mat is certainly a place of peace and processing for me.

The yoga practice holds within it many important metaphors and lessons for life. One I remind myself of often is: Stay on the mat. When there are circumstances, thoughts, and emotions that make us want to numb the pain of present reality, this is our repeated reminder that pain is a professor and that we must stay in it to get to the empathy, resilience, and strength that we long for – we must stay on the mat.

Yoga is a rich resource for connecting to our bodies. In fact, the word yoga means “union” in Sanskrit, the language of ancient India where yoga originated. On the yoga mat, a union takes place between body, mind, and soul.

Last week we discussed mindfulness. This practice of connecting to our bodies is related to the ideas we already discussed related to mindfulness. Connecting to our bodies allows us to draw awareness to the present moment. It also allows us to connect to and better understand our emotions, because our emotions live in the body. Our stomachs hurt, our hearts beat rapidly, and we feel light-headed due to anxiety, oftentimes before the mind recognizes and puts language to “I’m anxious.”

By connecting to and feeling more at home in the body, we can begin to feel more aware of our emotions and can respond to them in more mindful and meaningful ways.

In yoga we are connected to our body in a such a way that we can receive from it deeply the physical, emotional, and spiritual cues that enable us to understand what our body is needing, what it is asking for. It teaches us when to challenge our bodies and went to give them rest. It teaches us how to care for our bodies, as they are our most important vehicle for valued-living.

In yoga we bring our minds fully to the practice. There is no space for comparison or competition. This, too, is one of yoga’s beautiful gifts to those who practice and to their lives on and off the mat. Yoga teaches us to pour so deeply into our own mat that we cannot compare to the one next to it. We can find so much more inner peace from looking within than we can from comparing to the experiences of those around us.

Practicing awareness of our breath and incorporating some of the deep breathing skills we have been working on helps to allow the yogi to get the most of this practice. Yoga poses are an opportunity to practice meditation in motion.

Take these reminders (and more that you discover in your own yoga practice) from the mat to your life, back to the mat, and back to your life.

This is our challenge for the week: Do the following sequence 2x daily for 7 days – in the morning and in the evening. If you miss a day, say “that’s okay,” and start again from where you are without judgment or self-blaming. Share in the comments what you are learning from your time on the mat that you can apply to life off the mat!

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