The mat as a microcosm

Yoga shows us how we relate to life

By Elizabeth Devereux

”Yoga is the dance between the light and the dark within you. The light is what brings you back to the mat and the darkness is what you uncover there.”

~Amy Jirsa

In the July 2013 Smoke Signals, I wrote: from a mindfulness perspective, how we do anything is how we do everything.

When I was fairly new to yoga, 25 years ago, my ego drew me to a demanding tradition called “Ashtanga.” One day, I was reduced to tears on the mat by a stark realization of a paralyzing unkindness I chronically directed towards myself. Not only was this negative inner dialogue stopping me in my tracks on the mat, but also I started to see the toll it was taking on the rest of my life.

Owning this wounded part of myself, not mistaking my difficulty to be about yoga or the teacher, I responded to this need for self-nurturing by choosing to continue yoga at a gentler pace. And, with this gesture of absolute kindness towards self, I gained invaluable awareness, empowerment and freedom.

No matter how good a teacher might be, there never can be a substitute for the humility, honesty and safety of listening to our unique and ever-changing needs; going at our own pace is yoga’s Golden Rule.

A true turning point, I began to glimpse the sometimes-confrontational aspects of yoga, meditation or other transformational healing arts. To shine the light of awareness into the darkest corners of the self, these practices show us, body-mind-heart-soul, where we are functioning from, if we choose to see.

Because this paradoxical nature of transformational practices is often not understood, we might approach them from a conceptual standpoint, not prepared to take the possibly uncomfortable experiential realizations into our unresolved, often unconscious, issues.

One of the greatest gifts of regularly practicing a transformational art, like yoga, is the insight it gives us into our tendencies – positive and negative.

Yoga unravels layers of emotional, physical and mental holding in our body and being, much like peeling the layers of an onion. As familiar surface layers are removed, we’re shown our deeper inner realities.

Change is our only guarantee in life. The yoga poses, breathing and consciousness enhancing techniques are a dedicated practice in how to be more intentionally aware, fluid, resourceful and compassionate in both being and doing.

This ancient, yet practical technology of change elegantly and cumulatively teaches us to be more self-response-able, wise, graceful and peaceful on and off the mat, as we navigate the inevitable impermanency and the often trying “poses” of life.

For whatever a body-heart-mind-soul may desire or require, classes are offered for beginners, beginners/intermediate and a more dynamic yoga, as well as Mindfulness Meditation, at the Big Canoe Fitness Center.

Elizabeth Devereux has 25 years of training and work in the field of integrative health. She has a private holistic coaching practice in Big Canoe specializing in unconscious pattern release and energy realignment for optimal health, joy and vitality. Read more at


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