Welcome to the first day of your new life. That’s what happens when you roll out your yoga mat for the first time, the second, third, etc. Each time we roll out the mat we experience tabula rasa or blank slate. Tabula Rasa is an epistemological theory indicating we are born without built-in mental content and that our knowledge comes from experience and perception.
Our mat is the tabula rasa, it’s where we practice letting go of experiences and perceptions on three levels – intellectually, emotionally, and physically. We practice what’s termed in Greek speak ‘kenosis’ or to empty oneself. It’s an empty state of being where we have a heightened awareness in the moment and are receptive to many of life’s wonderful possibilities. In layman’s terms, our baggage from the past and future is gone, and we are just in the moment being who we are through the prism of love.
We reach this empty state in physical asana practice on the mat and meditation. Asana, the postures practiced in yoga, is the third limb of the eight limb yogic tradition. In yogic tradition, the care of our body is an important stage of our spiritual growth. When we practice asana, we develop discipline and the ability to concentrate, which are necessary ingredients for meditation.
As we practice yoga on the mat (physical postures), I believe it’s important that we integrate yoga into every aspect of our lives. Yoga in Sanskrit means to ‘yoke’ or union, and in a practical sense practicing yoga means being the creators of our own reality, letting the static in our mind and hearts go (kenosis), accepting reality as it is in the moment without going into highly emotional reactive states, and consciously breathing to keep us connected to the loving possibilities of the moment.
The other yoga is also physical in nature, it’s our other tabula rasa. I believe we can take the practice of asana in many other outlets, and I believe it’s necessary for a truly holistic experience. Walking meditation, running in zen, climbing with focus and awareness, swimming in the flowing waters of the moment, cycling in the cadence of feeling. The list can go on, but the point is, other physical movement, taking yoga off the mat and into other parts of our moving life is necessary to fulfill the full integration of our increased awareness as spiritual beings. We can experience tabula rasa in almost any physical movement we do and using the tools of yoga, we can grow these practices of integration to reach a keen awareness in our life.
Other physical movement such as running, cycling, swimming, climbing, etc., in combination with a physical asana practice on the yoga mat doubly develops discipline and concentration and guides us to move our bodies in a variety of ways for optimal holistic health. When we practice mindfulness in our ‘other yoga’ we bring a piece of meditation to our physical activity. This allows us to connect to our feeling states, which can guide us to a super awareness that our minds get in the way of. When I mountain bike on a tough trail, the minute I get too much into my mind I flip, fall and slide. When I’m on a trail and I am in my zen, moving through feeling, I ride with ease, confidence and acute awareness.
Social neuroscience research indicates that the brain is designed to move the body. Sixty to ninety percent of the cells in the brain are coded with physical movement. When our movement is restricted at an early age, it disorganizes the brains functions, and our capacity to process information effectively and efficiently is consequently decreased. When we are faced with an overload of stress hormones of cortisol and adrenaline, and we can’t move the body, the stress hormones get stuck in our muscle tissue causing a host of problems that contribute to an unbalanced mind-body-spirit connection. Social neuroscience research also indicates that with sufficient neuroconnectivity (i.e., keeping the body moving, practicing mindfulness) and integration, we release our defenses. When we release our defenses, we increase our awareness and we are more capable biologically and spiritually to connect fully to the present moment and experience love, joy, and happiness.
Take your yoga mat practice to the next level and incorporate other forms of physical movement for optimal balance in your life. For those athletes whether casual or competitive, who are skeptical of yoga, take your awareness up a few notches and delve into asana practice on the mat. Not only will you gain other benefits in your ‘other yoga’ from adopting an asana mat practice, but you’ll also gain increased discipline and focus in your everyday life. And for those not sure of either, get your body moving on and off the mat and reap the benefits of true bliss in the balance of mind-body-spirit.
“In my defenselessness my safety resides.” ~ A Course In Miracles
Om Shanti Om ~ Athea