find your mat, free your soul

Like many others, my first experience with yoga was attending the "latest and greatest" class offered at the gym. I was intrigued and wanted to see what this new workout was all about. Not surprisingly, I loved it and it has been in my life, in various capacities and levels of dedication, ever since that first beginner level "intro to yoga" class. For the most part, I stuck with the student-discounted classes offered at my university, popping in on a quasi-regular basis to escape the pressures of student life. When classes weren't convenient, I would practice at home to videos in my bedroom- at one point, in support of this, my Dad had cut and finished a piece of plywood that converted my otherwise too-plush-for-yoga bedroom carpet into the perfect support for my mat. My first yoga mat was a hand-me-down from a friend of mine who had bought it, never used it and had too much clutter in her closet to want to keep it. It was blue with pink Hawaiian flowers on it and I was thrilled to take it off her hands. My practice then was very different then it is now-- in my less conscious youth, I simply considered it part of my fitness routine and attributed the light feeling I felt afterwards to the endorphin release...

Years later, upon moving back to Calgary in 2010, so many things in my world were changing and my mat became my refuge from the anxiety and uncertainty that was swirling around and inside of me. Some nights after work I would attend multiple classes back-to-back just to feel the silence and be alone for a while. Although often the studio's were packed with people, I didn't really notice the crowds; others around me would simply fade away. To me, it was just me, my mat and I. 

I would come early for classes and stay late afterwards to talk to the instructors or familiar faces that I knew. The space, the energy, it all felt right...it felt *light. During a time where the rest of my life seemed uncertain, grey and heavy with turmoil, I welcomed such escape. It began to feel as if every class was custom designed for me; the opening intention seemed tailored to resonate deep within, like a divine wink of reassurance that I was exactly where I was supposed to be...Each asana felt like the exact movement and release that my body was craving. The breathe work opened up space within my body that otherwise felt compressed and crushed by circumstance. New and challenging asanas increased my confidence both on and off my mat. And the wisdom of the closing sentiments followed by the silence of shavasana ignited and gave forum to my heart to speak its truth. 

On my mat, I felt "plugged-in"; it was like there was a subtle surge of energy flowing through my body. I felt inspired and safe and this, for me, often led to an emotional practice. Countless times during shavasana, with my heart open and my mind still, I could feel my soul winning small but profound battles against fear and Ego and happy, hopeful tears would silently escape from my eyes in celebration of those victories. Other times, as I began to uncover and confront the knowing deep within that many of the choices I had made in life, as well as certain people that I chose to create it with may no longer be serving me, there were tears of release as I detached from what I once thought was the only way.  Through my practice,  I was realigning with my path.  

On and off of my mat, I felt empowered to get honest with myself about what I truly wanted-- not what others wanted for me or what the societal "should's" told me was right... but what I really wanted. There was new space in my head and heart that let me imagine and believe in the possibility of a different way.  As I visualized the possibility, I saw, felt and believed that life could be light...I realized that, in its truest form, life was meant to be full of love, happiness, simplicity and adventure. As I let myself indulge this, I only highlighted the contrast between what I yearned for and my world at the time and that contrast was powerful-- it became gut-wrenchingly obvious that the life I had been working so hard to create and maintain with the people that I once felt so sure that I wanted to live it with, was not right for me. Facing this felt equally invigorating as it did devastating-- I was literally breaking my world apart as if dismantling a brick wall: chipping away at it, piece-by-piece, examining and questioning each block as I pulled it down. 

Once it's on, you can't just simply flip the switch of consciousness off-- you'd go mad trying to do so. So, I knew that it was time to embrace the shifts that were happening within-- it was time to start making some changes. As I prepared myself and set my intention to do that,  I started to notice little...coincidences. You know the ones-- the little signs and fortunate circumstances that encourage you along the way but that we all know are not coincidence at all and are rather the result of connecting/tapping into your Source.  

One yoga class in particular stands out to me for the connection with the Source I found that day which I would later realize had forever changed my world. It was at one of my favourite studios in Canmore; on that I love for the big windows that allow the room to overflow with the morning light and offer a majestic view of the mountains. I've always really enjoyed being in the mountains, but during this trying period of my life, getting away for a mini-roadtrip and weekend retreat to take in a yoga class, relax at the spa, breathe the fresh mountain air and soak up the one-of-a-kind energy unique to the Rockies, was especially meaningful. That day, I arrived early to attend a morning class. The studio was full of warmth with sunbeams so thick I felt like I could reach out and touch them. I felt ignited the moment I walked in. As I followed the guidance of the instructor, I took a deep inhale and began the opening sequence of sun salutations. As I moved through the first Upward Facing Dog (Urdhva Mukha Svanasana), my heart was both literally and figuratively open toward the light and I set the intention for my practice that day--to have Faith. Silently, I proclaimed "I have Faith and I am open to guidance" and asked the Universe/ God/ the Higher Power (this Source may be different for each us...) to please show me the way. 

After that day,  coincidences were becoming more and more frequent; no doubt, this was the guidance I had asked for. There was one specific situation though that I had been fretting over for some time; I felt unsure about how to proceed and this was the situation that I held in mind when I created my intention of Faith that day on my mat in the mountains. And despite my fret and worry over this situation, I held faith that I would be shown the way through the reassurance of such coincidences I was noticing. Sure enough, only a few short months later, I was shown "the way" I had asked for. More honestly, I was given my way out of a situation I yearned to be free of but that felt impossible to be. But, there I stood in front of this giant open door, in disbelief-- "could it be that easy?", I wondered. There was a knowing within that said "yes, when it is what is right for you, it can be this easy".  Without a shadow of a doubt, I knew that this way-out was a  divine gift. I cried with relief. I knew I had a lot of work still left to do however, I also knew that my next step had to be the one that carried me through that open door. So, I took a deep breathe, whispered "holy shit" and took that step. As I did, I embraced the ending that I so needed to free my soul toward a new beginning that was all my own. I've never looked back after that; the support I sought that day continues within me, guiding every step I've taken since, along the path that has been illuminated for me to follow.  

What began as a yoga workout has become an outlet for some of my most important work within. During uncertain times, my practice served as a mirror of truth; through its reflection, I began to recover and embrace lost pieces of my soul. It may have taken me a few years to be conscious enough to recognize that my workout was really a work-in and it may also have taken certain trials and tribulations to push me toward surrender, but I know that through finding my mat, I freed my soul.