Five Lessons from the Mat | Yoga


The Universe has a way of tricking us. We believe we have it figured out, then life sneaks up from behind and teaches us a major earned lesson. And it can change with the blink of an eye.

The good thing about yoga is that it can be with us all the time; it is not limited to a yoga mat. In fact, by learning how to cope with hard poses on the mat, we have the opportunity to carry that same knowledge off the mat. Though this is no easy task, and like the poses themselves, requires practice.

Here are five aspects I learned in my mat and how I try to integrate them to help me deal with my life, particularly when things don't go the way I plan.

1. Breathe. When something is difficult, when we are being pushed beyond our limits, we hold a breath or two. I know I do. In class, we are always reminded to breathe. Breathe into the pose. I took that lesson a step further and kept reminding myself to check my breathing as a general rule. It took me a while to understand that stopping my breath was only increasing my levels of anxiety. But once I realized that, I started to breathe more mindfully and, particularly, I exhaled and let my breath flow.
2. Release. When there is tension, there is no point in pushing harder. We should always try to find a comfort zone within the hardships. Sometimes that comfort zone comes when we take a step back. If one pose is hurting my knee, how about if I use a block to support my leg? Same thing happens in life. I am not in opposition to tension; sometimes tension helps us to move forward. The magic happens when we understand when to stop and when to keep going. (I'm still working on this one.)

3. Share. The yoga community, be it within your favorite studio or spread across the country, is a place we choose to place our hearts. We often help each other in yoga class encouraging one another and baring witness to triumph. There is no need to go through life alone and keep everything to ourselves. We should all learn to accept help, to ease the burden. 

4. Accept. Some things just happen. Some days it is just harder to reach our toes. Accept that it is what it is and be with it. Learn from it. The only control we have is over our (re)actions. The belief that we control our life is merely an illusion. I don't mean to imply that we should just accept whatever comes and eventually stagnate. I believe one of the best things we need to accept is that we are good enough. We are worthy of whatever it is that we want.

5. Live. Life should always come first. If what I'm doing is not contributing in any way to my life, then why do I keep doing it? Wouldn't I rather be doing activities that actually have meaning for me? The best way to honor those who are gone is by living the most, by living the life that we want for ourselves. I try to enjoy what I do, enjoy my practice, enjoy every pose, for I only do that one pose once in my life. And if I am not present for it, it might just pass me by. I'm still working on this one too, but I try to choose life every day.

Sachi Doctor

Elemental Alchemy, 90 Rio Vista Avenue, Oakland, CA, 94611

Sachi Doctor is an Ayurvedic practitioner and holistic health coach who founded Elemental Alchemy with the mission to provide a resource for those navigating their way towards optimal mind-body health.

Diagnosed with an autoimmune disease at a young age, Sachi has spent over twenty years exploring different health modalities, treatment plans, diets and mindfulness practices to help alleviate chronic pain and restore balance.

After years of looking to others for a model of health with no relief, Sachi realized that the answers she sought were not hidden in someone else’s prescription for wellness but unique to her, and that the first step towards discovery was actually tuning out what was right for others and tuning into herself.

As she tapped into the wisdom of her own body, she discovered that the elements foundational for health  — the blueprint she so fervently sought — was within her, within each of us. Since then Sachi has been passionate about helping others also cultivate clarity and inner wisdom for vibrant health.

In addition to her Ayurvedic and nutrition education, Sachi has completed over 800 hours of yoga teacher training and continues to study with her mother, her first yoga teacher, for whom these practices are a way of life.

Sachi is a board member of the Prison Yoga Project at San Quentin State Prison and serves as an ambassador for Yoga Gives Back, a non-profit that raises funds within the US yoga community to support microcredit programs for women in India. She holds a Msc in Development from the London School of Economics.