I can probably write a book as to why my yoga practice is so important to me, but what’s most important is what actually brings me to my mat which I can sum up in one word: freedom. To begin with, there are a number of different types of yoga to choose from. Not everyone enjoys hot yoga or vinyasa or acro-yoga. But you have the FREEDOM to choose which type is the best fit for you. That could also change over time. I was a fervent vinyasa flow practitioner for eight years, but I have since shifted my practice to slow flow and alignment. “You are where you are supposed to be,” says one of my beloved teachers.
I started practicing yoga in a gym, as many people do. Nowadays whether you’re at the gym or yoga studio, the instructors are well-qualified and more often than not you will get a great class. From there I experimented in a few studios until I found my home studio in NYC. The most amazing difference to me is at a yoga studio there are no mirrors. This idea of no mirrors epitomizes freedom. You simply CAN’T judge yourself since you can’t see your reflection.
Related: How To Use Yoga To Detox
Being on your mat frees you from judgment from others, as well. On the path to enlightenment, yogis must practice all eight limbs of yoga, which include the Yamas (these five principles train your actions, thoughts and speech to be positive toward others) and the Niyamas (these five principles train your thoughts and actions to be positive to yourself). In following these principles, jealousy and envy find no place in the practice. When everyone is on their own mat, they should be focused on their own practice and not on their neighbors’ practice. No two bodies are the same, therefore no two asana practices can be the same.
Freedom comes in the form of expression. “Move like yourself” is the mantra in my NYC studio and is a constant reminder of the freedom you are given on a yoga mat: Listen to your body and perform asana as your body flows into the prompted pose. Your trikonansa (triangle pose) will not be the same as anyone else’s in the room, but it is the perfect one for you. There are also days when asana won’t come to you, so you can be free to meditate, chant or practice pranayama (breathing) as varying practices.
Freedom yields empowerment.
Yoga teaches you to believe in yourself, listen to your body, to love and accept yourself as you are. And just as you are, YOU are perfect.
So, what brings me to my mat?
I’m free to emote.
I’m free to think.
I’m free to not think at all.
I’m free to flow.
I’m free to be still.
I’m free to sing.
I’m free to be silent.
I’m free to breathe.
My mat is my stage. My mat is my soap box. My mat is my cave. My mat is my safety zone. My mat is my sanctuary. My mat brings me FREEDOM.
P.S. Check out this yoga workout you can use to wake-up or wind-down!
When Hillary Goldrich isn’t doing practicing yoga, she’s enjoying hikes in the mountains of North Carolina. Read more about Hillary here …