How Do You Roll Up Your Mat?
I tried to incorporate it into my routine a couple of years ago, but it just never “stuck.” My friend Rae Minten of Believe in Movement Studio went to a lot of effort to create a practice for me, but I never felt like I had time to do all of it, and if I wasn’t doing all of it I was somehow letting her down.
So after a month or two I didn’t do it at all.
I tried a couple of classes at my gym, but they just weren’t cutting it. Gym classes tend to be about “working out,” requiring at least some form of abdominal crunches…what?
Understand, I had a very intense, daily Iyengar practice when I was 14 and 15 years old. I went to an independent study high school, and we were responsible for logging our own PE reqirements outside of the class curriculum.
Being from Ojai, CA, yoga was in no shortage, and once I tried it I was hooked. I went to class 2 or 3 times a week, and practiced at home, late at night, 90+ minutes every day that I didn’t go to the studio.
Savasana (corpse pose – just lying still at the end of one’s practice) became a deep and transformational experience.
I gained strength and endurance. I didn’t totally hate my body.
This daily practice was instrumental in keeping me sane during some of my family’s most challenging years, and when we actually bought a house I got to specify the flooring and paint texture of my own bedroom to accomodate my yoga imperative.
With the move, though, I was too far from a yoga studio to remain inspired, and my practice gave way to friends and boyfriends and theater.
Since then I’ve always meant to go back. I’ve found classes I’ve gone to regularly throughout the years, but never so that it stuck.
But a few weeks ago it occurred to me, I could just do a few minutes a day. I could just do some Sun Salutes, right?
Well, Sun Salutes and a twist. And I obviously need some supported poses. And wow, that’s tight! Better add a stretch there…
Suddenly I’m doing 30-45 minutes every day. Even when I’m in a rush I get in 5 or 10 sun salutes and that spinal twist. Amazing.
I have my body back in a way that I haven’t had in a long time.
And then last week I noticed something.
I noticed that getting up from my mat has become part of my practice. Rolling my mat has become a reverent act, done with precision and grace and gratitude.
It didn’t happen on purpose. It just is. It’s become a natural extension of what happens on the mat.
And effective rolling has everything to do with the balance at the start of the process. That first cylinder is everything. It’s at the heart of the project.
As the mat is rolled from this core, each side gets adjusted and balanced several times, to end in a firm pillar with fairly even ends.
Kind of like a yoga practice. Each side is a little different, a little imperfect, in need of constant adjustment.
Kind of like life.
I used to hate rolling my mat because I could never get the ends even. It would always spiral in one direction or the other. The same reason I hated rolling Marley flooring for the ballet when I was still doing stagehand work. I’d walk away in a huff, leaving the task to someone with more patience.
And some days are still like that, and the whole thing becomes a series of cones lumped on top of each other in an attempt to adjust, or I’m in a hurry and don’t care, and one side gets all pointy and the other concave.
These are the days that wind up unsatisfying and off-kilter, more often than not. Days when my yoga practice has been unstable and wobbly and I forgot to finish one side of my body or forgot to breathe or fell over.
The natural extension of my practice is sustained through the mundane task of putting away a strip of rubber, and I can see exactly where I’m at, no matter where that is.
And I’m fine with the lumpily rolled mat. It teaches me not to take myself too seriously. When I find myself really needing to get my mat right it usually means I’m not really centered, and so neither is it.
And it’s still wonderful, because it’s a mirror that shows me that I’m still here, and still pracicing, and still took the time to show up for this ritual of self-care.
Now the challenge is to continue to carry this attitude through my day. How do I brush my teeth? Feed the cats? Make the bed?
How do I greet my friends? Speak to my mother? Look in my husband’s eyes?
This daily practice is teaching me reverence for this existence, and harmony in the mundane, and balance. Beautiful balance.
And while I’ve found it in a yoga practice, these moments can be caught and honored in any day, for any reason, yoga or no yoga.
A good run (how do you stretch and feed your body after?), a productive day in the garden (how do your wash your hands and put away your gloves and clippers?), or how you put your child down for a nap (how do you pick up the toys and books and smashed peas off the floor?), and it’s all precious.
Each moment is a gift.
Which makes me curious. What about you? Is there something in your own life that instills grace and poise and gratitude?
How do you roll up your mat?