I remember when I was in India practising yoga with my teacher at Purple Valley. At the time, I practised a lot of Ashtanga yoga which is a strong physical yoga. I was going through my sun salutations when my yoga teacher tapped me on the shoulder as I was in the middle of a chaturanga (or, in my mind, back then, a tricep press-up) and quietly said to me, “It is not a gym mat.”
At first, I was a bit taken aback as Ashtanga is a very physical practice, and I often thought that as I had done yoga, I did not need to work out. But over those two weeks, I started to think about what he said more and more, and I realised that the two mats are very different and are not the same thing.
Whilst some yoga practices can be very physically demanding and can make you feel like you have done a workout, the physical outcome is not the purpose of a yoga mat.
It is hard when we have very little time in the day for ourselves to be able to separate the two, especially if we don’t have time to do yoga and to work out.
The reason I say your yoga mat is not a gym mat is that the goal of yoga is not a physical outcome. The goal of yoga is to turn inwards and to gain happiness, to create bliss and peace. The aim is to self-reflect, control the breath, achieve deep relaxation and grow through meditation. The asanas (physical postures) are used to help to achieve this, they are not the main outcome. It does not matter if you can not do certain poses that does not mean you are good or bad at yoga. Yoga is an internal practice. What matters is how you approach your practice.
So next time you are on your yoga mat, turn the focus inwards to the breath, to your mind, take the outcomes away from the physical and into the internal and notice how your inner peace will thank you.
Ann de Jongh is a Health & Wellbeing Coach
+351 913 202 621