Taking yoga off the mat...


One of the many translations of the word yoga is yoke, union or to join.  So it stands to reason, that yoga is not practiced for yoga sake.  Yes we all want to bend ourselves into pretzels but yoga is not intended to isolate or bind us to the constraints of our bodies or minds.  The impact of practicing yoga reaches far beyond the four corners of our mats and pretty poses.


This may resonate with some of us as the union of the mind, body and spirit.  I've noticed that in my life, yoga is the union between between all the seemingly separate roads I want to travel.  In other words, yoga invites us to take the teachings and sensations we cultivate on the mat out the door into our cars, work places and homes. 


As a new student I remember thinking, well that's nice, but how? 


I mentioned the seemingly different roads I'm traveling right now.  To highlight a few, I'm a yoga practitioner, a yoga teacher, an actress, a girlfriend, a daughter etc.  Often I feel torn between these roads.  As if any commitment to one road makes the others suffer. As I come back to the mat over and over again, not to be alone, but to unite myself with "my selves", something is becoming more clear every day.


Each of these roads are the same.


Let's look at yoga and acting for a moment.  When I practice yoga, I always begin by finding my feet rooted firmly on the floor.  Before I step on stage I always begin by finding my feet rooted firmly on the floor.  Grounding down evokes a sense of security and calm.  When I teach yoga, I ask (myself) for balance in my throat chakra to cultivate clear communication and truthfulness.  When I open my mouth to say a line or sing, I do the same.  When I begin to flounder in a pose, losing balance or strength, I connect to my breath, hug my muscles to the midline of my body and reestablish my gaze.  When I forget a line onstage, or the wrong music plays or a set piece is in the wrong place, I breathe, hug into myself, my truth, and refocus.  In yoga we are constantly reminding ourselves to be present  with what is happening right here right now.  On stage, although you've said those words and moved your head in that way hundreds of times, you constantly remind yourself to be in the present moment.  The work is to treat each downward facing dog and each lyric as if you've never experienced it before, as if it organically poured from you as a perfect expression of that moment.


To me, as a yogini, I endeavor to vibrate moment to moment with presence and authenticity.  No surprise that I think this is a supreme definition for a brilliant actor.


So, perhaps the next time your yoga teacher ends class with, "take this with you into the rest of your day, "  You will know that "this" is simply a more connected (yoked) "you."  The "you" who takes a deep belly breath in rush-hour traffic instead of cursing people, the "you" who acts in relation to the present moment instead of reacting to habitual thoughts.  The person who you already are.  The practice of yoga can reunite us with our greater selves, if we let it.

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