I have heard it said we need to take our practice off the mat. I always took that to mean practice without a mat (literal me). Or live the teachings of the yamas and the nyamas (philosophical me). Or even offer loving kindness to everyone (emotional me). But it has occurred to me that there is another way to take my practice off my mat.

I practice often. And my body is not always thrilled with what I repeatedly ask it to do. For a while I was plagued with what I call yoga butt. Essentially, it is an inflamed nerve aggravated by repetitive use. In my case, lots of forward bends and Adho Mukha Savasana – stretching my hamstrings and pinching the nerves therein. I tried massage, rest, and over the counter medications. Silly me, I had been told the solution at least a half dozen times every class I took. Bend my knees to lessen the tension in my hamstrings. My knees tend to hyperextend in poses, so it took concentration to micro-bend them in all the standing poses, forward bends, and, of course, down dog. I focused on doing just that for a whole class, and eureka! Not once did I get the zing in my butt that blazes down my leg. Subsequent classes with micro-bent knees produced the same pain free result. I was cured.

Not. I was weeding in my garden and got zinged twice. I finally got a clue. To really affect a cure for my inflammation, I needed to take my practice off my mat. The lessons I have learned about how to move my body in yoga class should be applied all the time. Zings are messages. Pay attention. Monitor and adjust.

So, smile at strangers, volunteer, share your time, talent, and treasures. But, do it all while paying attention to what is going inside your body. The lesson: what keeps you safe in yoga class will keep you safe off the mat.

Hello, my name is Dale Hills. I am a retired teacher who started practicing yoga at Sadhana in 2010. As my interest deepened, I practiced more, studied more, learned more. And I have further to go on this journey. Come to Sadhana. I might be there to sign you in. It is a magical place.