How I found my Mat #MovementMonday By Sam Bederman
“Yoga allows you to rediscover a sense of wholeness in your life, where you do not feel like you are constantly trying to fit broken pieces together.” BKS Iyengar
I’m not much of a gambling woman, but if I were, I bet many yoga practitioners first found themselves on their mat looking for physical relief, emotional stability, and a safe heaven, much like myself. Have you ever traveled back in time to your first yoga class? Have you ever reminisced about that first “ah-ha” moment? Have you ever meditated on those “firsts” and realized your own newfound sense of commitment to your yoga? I have wondered which came first in my case. Which moment was “the” moment and what was the impetus leading me down this yogic path…of least resistance?
I first fell in love with my mat when I was in my mid 20’s. An age when I found myself highly spirited, practicing alternative lifestyle choices with a great sense of independence. Already I had decided I wanted to remove red meat and white foods from my diet, (sugar, potatoes, flour) but still searching for something more deliberate and tangible, bringing me closer to balance. I remember walking the streets after my “9-to-5” days’ end, feeling released from my day yet free-falling out of control. I spent my days in a frenetic environment, with demanding deadlines, and always trouble-shooting. I found my mat in an Iyengar introductory class where I learned how to practice Savasana, (Corpse Pose). From the moment I found actual stillness, I knew something monumental was about to change my lifestyle.
For almost 10 years I practiced yoga weekly. I gradually practiced more vegetarianism and contributed my calmed digestive issues to the yoga I was practicing on and off my mat. My 30’s were all about family planning and my body went through a considerable amount of physical and hormonal changes to accommodate the miracles of life. My yoga became increasingly more important to me with more frequency desired. With each growing month of my babybump, my Sirsasana, (Headstand) became stronger and held longer with increased benefits to my heart and unborn baby’s soul. I was building a new kind of trust, honour, and gratitude for my baby and body. My self worth began to skyrocket along side my progesterone levels, allowing not only a physical extension in my muscles due to my pregnant ligaments, but also a sense of courage I once lacked in becoming a mother.
The next several years leading well into my 40’s, were the most significant on my journey with my mat. I cried on my mat for months and she was never worse for wear. In fact, my practice began to serve, protect, shield, and comfort me like no other ritual I knew. I found myself in a significant transitional moment in my life. My marriage was over, my family relationships were changing, and often I felt as if I had no one to turn to except my mat. My yoga was now my best friend, my teacher, my safe heaven, my community, and my saviour. With my yoga, the frame of my new life could begin to reshape and no therapist, at this point, was more real with me than my mat.
I bet, if you asked a cross section of yoga practitioners what happened once they found their mat, they would tell you “yoga saved my life”, and so would I.
Movement Monday: Savasana (Corpse Pose)
Although it looks easy, Savasana (Corpse Pose) has been called the most difficult of the asanas. Many yoga students who can easily balance, bend, and twist, struggle with just lying on the floor. Savasana can also serve as a starting point for meditation. The essence of Savasana is to relax with attention, remain conscious and alert while still being at ease. Savasana is a practice of gradually relaxing one body part at a time, one muscle at a time, and one thought at a time. When you do this practice day after day, it conditions the body to release stress and can improve your sense of physical and emotional well-being. Working with props to support the body can help you learn to consciously relax. In the full version of the pose, you will rest your entire body on the floor. Extend your arms and legs outward from the torso evenly and symmetrically. Mentally scan the body from head to feet, gradually releasing each body part and take time to notice all the places where the body is making contact with the floor. With each exhalation, imagine each limb getting a little heavier and spreading out a little more.
Optimize Your Pose:
- To relax the eyes and mind: Gently place a cloth or eye pillow over your eyes to block out the light and stimulus, helping the pupils to relax.
- To relax the abdomen: Place a sandbag, block, or a few blankets horizontally across your lower abdomen.
- To support your neck: Place a folded blanket or cushion under your neck and head until your forehead is slightly higher than your chin.
- To relax the lower back: Place a rolled-up blanket or cushion beneath your knees.