Off the Mat: How Yoga Keeps Me Honest

I learned a lesson this week. I need to do yoga. Period. Full stop. End of story.

More yoga! What I need!

As I sit and write, my hip flexors are tight. My right thigh needs massaging to release the tight spots. I wiggle and stretch- unsuccessfully- to release the gripping.  Bottom line- I am distracted by discomfort in my body that I know I don’t need to live with.

So how did I get here? A change in activity- less yoga, more sitting in my case. You might be in the same boat- a work project that took hours on the computer, a long drive, something that made you sedentary.

Or maybe you switched into your summer activities and are learning how easy it is for muscles to tighten, imbalances to become more pronounced, and injuries to rear their head.

So here’s my take: after years of living with a crooked spine and playing in the sporting world and the working world, I have realized that yoga keeps me honest.

Yes- honest. When I lay down my mat and start to practice, poses like pigeon pose and hero’s pose tell me right away how I am doing in the self-care department.  Tight hips and thighs make their voices heard. Twists- especially twists lying on my back- are another check point. If I am not practicing enough, the scoliotic curves in my spine make it hard to breathe as I twist to the right.  And child’s pose- sweet, simple child’s pose- that’s the pose that tells me how tired I really am.

Our activities naturally fluctuate as the seasons change and our work and family projects shift.  So here’s the question: what value does yoga hold when the sun is bright, the trails beckon, or we are motivated to dive deep into a project at the computer?

Sustainability. That’s the value. Not sure about you, but I have no interest in living with discomfort that I don’t need to. What I want to do is have the freedom to go out and do what I want, day in and day out. On the trails, with my family or at work. When I want to. But even in my early 40’s I can see that it’s going to take self-care to maintain this body and have the freedom I am looking for.

So what’s that look like for me? Twists for my spine and lots of hip openers, especially front hip openers. Every day. That’s my truth.

And what does it look like for you? That depends. Play soccer? Run? Cycle? Are you an accountant just out of tax season? Most of us benefit from hip and shoulder openers, but your unique make-up and choice of activities will ultimately dictate what you need to ensure sustainability in your active life.

So back to yoga. Summer may not be your favorite time to hit the mat, especially when the sun finally shines and you want to be out.  But give yourself a fighting chance to make it through the season un-injured. Hit the mat- in class, at home, wherever. Just do it.

And be honest with yourself about what you find. Take care of the tight spots and the hot spots. Stretch and breathe. Use your yoga to compliment your other activity choices. And watch for that little extra hint of freedom that comes your way.

-marcia wilson

“Off the Mat” posts are Yoga Loft owner Marcia Wilson’s contemplations and insights about yoga, ayurveda, and living the real life of a busy mom, business owner and householder.