Off Your Mat

Bringing yoga off your mat into your life, one pose at a time.


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The Judgment Pose

I’m most relaxed and focused in my yoga practice when I’m not worried about what other people think of me.

If I suddenly become self-conscious or worried that I might be judged, the pleasure I derive from my practice can drain away. I begin to see myself through the eyes of the people looking at me, and in my insecure moments I might imagine that they only see my flaws.

The reality is, the most critical eye in the room is the instructor who is looking to assist and he or she needs to use judgment to do so.

group yoga class

Tree Pose (Vriksasana)

Here’s a quick example. At first glance the above photo is of attractive people practicing yoga. However, as I look closer, I find flaws. I can spot three yogis placing their foot against the knee of their support leg. That can injure the knee. As an instructor I would gently remind my class to place the foot either above or below the knee. I used my judgment to identify a threat and then protected others by pointing it out.

Humans are hard-wired to judge, it is a survival skill. Thousands of years ago the first humans had to judge and assess most things in their environment for threat. They didn’t have the luxury of assuming changes and differences were ultimately good.

Akakus - Sahara Desert

Akakus – Sahara Desert

Fast forward to the present. We still judge. There are still physical dangers that we need to assess. However, we use our judgment in countless other ways. It is the way our minds work. We observe, we assess, we make judgments. It is what we do with those judgments that can either be helpful or hurtful. That choice is up to the individual.

People judge. It’s what we do. We cannot control what another person might do with their judgment. If a person makes judgments and uses them to degrade or humiliate an individual, then that is an example of judgment gone wrong.

So here’s the take away: Yes. People will judge you. No. It’s not necessarily a bad thing. Ultimately, it is your own judgments about yourself that should resonate loudest.

Maybe the best approach is to adopt the philosophy of Wayne Dyer and remember, “What other people think of me is none of my business.”


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The Out of the Mouth of Babes Pose: The Practice of Listening

Erin Hanson Poem

The above poem has gone viral. It has been pinned & tumbled across the internet. I came across it today in someone else’s blog. Having been a poetry buff, I was annoyed with myself because I was sure I knew the poem, but I couldn’t figure out who had written it. I was confident it was a portion of a poem of someone I read in college and the name had since faded from memory.

So I googled it. Only to discover the prose was written by a 19-year-old (That’s right. 19.) Australian girl called Erin Hanson. Here she is…

You can learn more about her in this interview with Julia Mason. She is inspiring. Along with writing and managing her poetry blog, she does crafts and tutors kids in math and was a gymnastics coach. She makes me want to go back in time and give my 19-year-old self a serious talking to.

This young woman is a reminder that age isn’t the only path to wisdom and sometimes young eyes find the truest path. She (and her poem) make me hope that as my small daughter grows, I am careful enough to listen to her dreams and brave enough not to stifle them.


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The Practice of Perspective

plane window photo

A view from above

Time does more than tick mindlessly, measuring out moments and rationing minutes. It heals too.

I remember as a teenager being embroiled in a heartbreaking social tangle. I sat at my childhood kitchen table lamenting the situation with tears welling in my eyes. My mother reassured me saying, “I can tell you that in a few years this will mean nothing.”

She was right. All I can remember from that moment is my mother’s words. I have no idea what actually caused the tears.

Now my daily life hustles across a grid marked by time. School drop off at 8:30, work by 9:00, 60 minutes for lunch, pick up by 4:45, swim class by 6, my eyes search out the dashboard clock as my own digital sherpa.

street chalk art optical illusion

I rarely notice how this endless current of time is slowly softening edges and smoothing rough spots. If I choose to stop and think about what might have had my stomach in a knot last year at this time, it becomes really clear that things have changed and that particular worry has dissipated on its own.

It causes a reevaluation of current worries. If they don’t matter a year from now, do they matter at all?

Even time, that is often viewed as a taskmaster, can be re-framed as a gentler force, kind enough to ease fears and tensions just by keeping its constant measured pace.

Reminding us, that a little perspective can change everything.