On the mat.....Off the mat!!!
That was it! I was hooked! I loved my evening yoga classes; my body was unlocking, my mind wasn’t as agitated as before, my posture improved, I was smiling more. Most mornings I was not as grumpy upon waking up! The change was visible to all my friends, workmates, acquaintances, although they could not quite grasp why I was so excited to go to a yoga class. My morning practice (alone) was a little different though….. I would wake up at 5 am because that’s what yogis do; I would have a cold shower because yogis do that too (it was winter and I was only an aspiring yogi; I was not in India in the scorching heat with years of practice), I’d drink a cup of lemon water because caffeine was not a proper drink for yoga and off I was on the mat starting my practice. Before standing on the mat, I felt I had just climbed a mountain but it didn’t matter; yogis were committed and so was I. I would practice for one hour, sometimes more and I would be excited all day because of being so committed and feeling all those good vibes that come with a practice. The next day I would wake up at 5am with a sore throat and blamed the cold shower of the previous morning; I would look at the alarm clock and think of throwing it out of the window. I would look at the mat and talk to it: “Give me a break please!! I’m sooooo tired; it is cold, I have a headache, I have a sore throat, I have my period, I feel the flu and I have heart burn. I do not need you today, I need a magic something to get me out of my misery!” And I would roll to my other side to continue to sleep. When finally it was too late even to make it on time to work, I would drag myself into the shower and stand under boiling water; I would have a double espresso and watch tv, eventually making it to the bus stop, ready to have a grumpy day! On such days, the evening class was not even an option; I would go back home and look at the mat in its usual corner; I would put it in the wardrobe so that I could not see it, or better, so that it could not see me. It was like I was being spied on. The mat was my enemy. I would go out with friends, although I did not feel well; just to avoid the mat! AT the end of the evening, I would drag someone to the last open venue, only to stay away from that thing. At home I would make sure I did not open the wardrobe in case it fell out. I needed peace and no obligations until I could manage the practice again. Why was this happening? I loved yoga! There were days when I could not wait to be on the mat and days when I could not even look at it. I didn’t dare talking about it with the people at class who looked like they were one with the mat; maybe they even slept on it. Huh….that was probably the answer I was looking for….sleeping on the mat. I called the landlady and asked her if she could come remove the couch as I needed space. She was a bit surprised I did not want furniture but agreed to have it removed in few days. And…..voila’…… suddenly the sitting room was just floor, cushions, tv, some shelves for books, and “the yoga mat”. I loved it; it looked like the perfect space to practice, sleep, read….. and I still had a bedroom with a bed if things did not work out between me and the mat. For the first few days I would sit on the mat for the wrong reason; watching tv. Then one evening at class I talked to another aspiring yogi and mentioned my new room and how good it was to watch tv on the mat instead then on the couch because my joints could loosen up just by sitting cross legged for a long period of time. She looked at me in total horror: do you watch tv? That’s not good and not very yogic! And she left! I kneeled in a corner of the room and prayed: Oh Lord, please forgive me because I have sinned! I did not know watching tv was a sin in the yogic world! I felt like I had done something illegal and I kept the tv off for the next few weeks, concentrating on being “on” the mat. And it became easier; joints increased mobility as I would spend longer time breathing while sitting cross legged. As I did that, my mind became calmer and I could start meditation again, although I would practice short sessions, never forcing myself to continue if it felt uncomfortable. After a while the mat and the room felt like a real home. It felt strange being “off” the mat. And that’s how my relationship with the mat started; as I was going to be on it, I might have just as well moved on it, practicing asana, instead of being just a bum on the mat. It was not easy to train my mind to commit to a practice every day as the mind always suggested better things I could have done with my time, including the illegal one. I have to admit sometimes I took breaks when I knew there was my favorite program; pulled the curtains across and watched tv in the dark, like a thief, knowing I was doing something bad. To this day, about 3 decades later, I still have a very committed relationship with the mat; I do not watch tv on it any longer, although I still watch tv, in the dark, like a thief, when nobody’s watching. I do not hide the mat in the wardrobe any longer; It is just there, to be unrolled every day for a new experience!