The View From My Yoga Mat
Written By: Janie Martin, 5 Koshas Yoga Student
Photographed above is Janie’s Yoga Buddy Spanky, who watches as she practices daily!
I am a yoga student, usually taking twice a week lessons, for four years. I also practice on my own nearly every day. I consider myself a ranked beginner.
Before I started taking classes, I thought yoga looked easy. My main concerns were not looking silly and keeping up with my classmates the first few weeks. My goal was to remain flexible as I aged; and because my doctor recommended yoga for those who were, like me, at high risk of osteoporosis.
At random, I picked a “beginner” class in Tulsa where I was living and found a gem of an instructor, and a room full of kindred souls.
Even when everyone else was stretching to the right side, and I was inexplicably going left, there were no laughs or corrections. My concerns about looking silly vanished quickly.
After six months it dawned on me that although I was getting (at least most of the time!) into the correct poses, I wasn’t focused on increasing my ability to stretch.
I had heard “go halfway between easy and hard,” from instructor Linda for six months, but that day the lightbulb came on, and I started to feel progress.
As we prepared to move home to Wisconsin two years ago, one of the things that was the hardest to leave behind was my class and instructor.
Finding a yoga studio was a high priority and I was very fortunate to end up at 5 Koshas, in gifted Renee’s class.
Due to the pandemic, I now only see my fun and interesting classmates via zoom, but I anxiously await a return to the studio when it is safe.
Recently, during my solo practice at home, I had another blinding glimpse of the obvious, or BGO, as I call them.
I was focused on breath and movement, and suddenly realized I was matching my breath to my body movement, and not matching the body movement to my breath.
This may sound inconsequential, but when I started to let my breath lead, my physical movements slowed drastically.
This after I have heard multiple instructors coach the correct way for four years! The result when I got it right was a deeper sense of relaxation and calm.
Years ago, I enjoyed taking Tae Kwan Do classes with my son. But in contrast with yoga, the focus was on learning a skill set and advancing.
It felt like a pressurized rush to master and move up. Yoga is complex enough that I am still challenged in a “Beginner and Beyond” class.
I am making slow progress, but I am not impatient. Going slow is delivering gains in my flexibility, but also in achieving a relaxed mental state which is almost addictively enjoyable.
Once in a while, I am busy and tempted to skip my daily practice. But when I “adult myself” to the mat, it only takes minutes for me to be glad I am taking this time for myself.
It never fails when I get on the floor at home our two big dogs come to see if I need their help. (I don’t.) Luckily they lose interest quickly, and when they depart, our cats come and lie on the mat corners.
It is unusual for the cats to seek me out during the day. I believe they are attracted by the calm energy I have when practicing. “Calm energy” is not how anyone who knows me would usually describe me.
I am enjoying my yoga journey at a pace that feels right for me. I am adjusting to a new instructor, and as hard as it is to accept change, I know I will have a BGO or two because everyone helps me see or feel something new.
I am inspired by those I take classes with who are older than I, or have physical challenges, yet persist in practicing.
I hope I can be a beginner still unrolling my mat daily for many years to come. You may still see me sweeping left when everyone else is sweeping right, but after all, they do call it “practice.”