I’m struggling to find yoga off of the mat. Outside of the physical. Outside of chatarangas. Outside of arm balances. Because really, yoga “off of the mat” just seems like an exulted label for kindness, humility, and grace; the manner in which humans should exist anyway. So the concept baffles me.
And yesterday I cried.
One of my dearest and oldest friends is rescuing two beautiful dogs. These greyhound sisters raced together, retired together, and lived together with one family. Now aged nine, the sisters have come to Steel City Greyhounds resulting from family divorce. Awaiting a new home, hoping to be kept together, but with a fate unknown, these pretty sisters met their new daddy yesterday.
And I had the privilege of snapping the photo. The first family photo. Earning 85 Likes and glorious commentary, my friend and his greyhounds filled Facebook hearts with joy. His mother commented, “I think Mega and Wunder are beautiful but what I like best is the look on your face when you’re with them. It says it all…”
And I freaking lost it. I cried.
I didn’t cry because the comment was sweet. I didn’t cry because his mother is adorable. Yes, it was sweet, and she is adorable. I rather cried because once upon a time, I had a similar look upon my face.
And I didn’t realise it until yesterday.
Knowing that in five, 10, 30 years, my friend will reminisce on his photo, treasuring it, remembering so much about his wonderful dogs and their first meeting made me overjoyed that tears gushed down my face. It’s the first chapter of his book, and it’s already moved me.
Dogs really do bond us, don’t they?
I wonder, is my crying the reaction that everyone talks about? Is this the “off-the-mat-yoga-practice” that everyone says I need to learn? They say that yoga makes one emotional, so was I doing it? Am I doing it? Am I practicing yoga off of the mat? And must one practice on to practice off?
With a quick Google search, I found that every source says the same. Practicing yoga off of the mat (formally) means remaining emotionally and mentally fit by making YOU priority and managing reality. By breathing. Caring. Living kindly. And it doesn’t require a complimentary on-mat practice.
Based on this, my suspicions are confirmed that practicing off of the mat is simply label for being a good human.
For me, practicing asana inspires awareness. I notice ducks. I notice hearts. I even notice my oven. And even though asanas are not formally required to be aware (according to the internet), I think they’re important. Even still, the simple fact that I feel and think and live vibrantly is not indication that I’m practicing yoga off of the mat. It’s rather indication that I’m human. I’m living purely and passionately. When I’m triggered to cry, I cry. When I’m triggered to want, I want. When I’m triggered to give, I give.
I don’t need an off-mat label to certify my lifestyle and therefore my yoga practice. I don’t need to find something abstract. I don’t need to seek some la la la glorified state of enlightenment. To be human, I require just four things:
My brain. My heart. My dog. My down dog.
And maybe an iPhone. :)
Please tell me the beautiful story… how did you meet your dog?