Life Beyond the Mat – By Lucy Luo

This world is your best teacher. There is a lesson in everything. There is a lesson in each experience. Learn it and become wise. Every failure is a stepping stone to success. Every difficulty or disappointment is a trial of your faith. Every unpleasant incident or temptation is a test of your inner strength. Therefore nil desperandum. March forward hero!”
― Sivananda Saraswati

One of the most valuable gift I could give is my own experiences and lessons I have gained, these are my own truth and growth which I am confident to share with others so they may be inspired to look deeper into their own lives.
I first discovered yoga as a way to stay active due to an injury from running. When I started to practice initially, I used yoga as an escape, I would find myself craving the need to walk away from responsibilities and the mat was the perfect place…for an hour. Yoga is a great way to calm and settle our busy mind from daily stressors. If someone comes to yoga to release tension and to get away from the stress, I give him or her a giant yogi bear hug for stepping onto the mat!

As I got deeper into my own practice however, I begin realizing the importance of taking my practice off of the mat and applying it to my life. The way I live my life in coherence to my practice on my mat. This has not been an easy lesson, as I begin paying more attention to the way I live, I begin noticing the many disconnections between my practice and my way of living. The continuity of practice was missing because I was looking to yoga as a way to turn my life “off”; I was approaching my practice on the mat as a tool to not feel. A great teacher of mine once told me: “ how you do one thing is how you do everything.” This rang much truth in my journey to take my practice to my daily life. How I show up on my mat is how I show up in all situations in life. By suppressing or avoiding certain feelings during my practice, I was denying myself of fully experiencing these feelings in life as well.

I believe that every emotion, sensation or feeling exists and shows up in us for a reason. Feel all of them!

How we react in times of difficulties or unexpected situations are there to test our practice. When we cannot engage ourselves in an actual physical practice, how can we extend this way of being from our mat into our personal lives?
I begin thinking about how it’s easy to incorporate a physical, mental and spiritual practice into our daily lives when we are following a scheduled routine, when things are going our way, its easy to “go with the flow”. However, the nature of all things is impermanence; nothing stays static and at many point in our lives, bad things will happen. How we react and the way we show up in ourselves in these situations reveal the reality of our practice.
Whether you look to yoga for physical fitness or a more spiritual connection, there are endless lessons to be learnt on the mat, physical practice of yoga taught me to respect, listen to and honor my body. My spiritual practice…. taught me the same!

I invite you to bring more awareness into your practice, and extend this awareness beyond the mat. When the going gets rough, I often ask myself these questions:
- How is my body responding? Being aware of my physical reactions without the need to change or react to it trains us to stay calm and connected to our body in stressful situations.
- What kind of thoughts is going through my mind? All conscious actions begin with a thought. Taking myself out of the repetitive thought patterns and observing the nature of my thoughts help me FEEL more clearly
- Where am I holding tension? This has taught me to mindfully pay attention to particular parts of my body where I often hold stress.
- What can I let go of? This is a big one and was challenging for me, for in order to let go of anything, physical or mental. I’d have to dig deep, to feel everything. By doing so, I was able to discover things I have been holding onto since my childhood that not only did not serve me, but also was working against my growth and happiness. By letting go of these comforting but sometimes maladapted underlying patterns, and BE IN THE DISCOMFORT, I discovered a more authentic and truthful me. I begin incorporating my practice on my mat with the way I live.
- **I have to emphasize again that this is not an easy or speedy process, it is a constant flow of observation and change for me and should be for anyone wishing to take their practice into their life. Please know that this is the same as your first yoga class, and it will takes the same courage and patience it took to step back on to the mat over and over again.
These questions are what I often ask myself on my mat, and now, off of my matt. Yoga is a way of living, each breath and movement, each moment and experience in your practice paints a picture of the way you wish to live and the way you show up in life. As I offer you apart of my experience in my practice, I encourage you to get curious. Take the fruits of your labor on your mat into your daily lives; to truly open up to all this practice and everything YOU have to offer.

I wish you happiness, in your practice, in your life and in you!



Lucy is an instructor at The Hot Box Yoga in Kelowna, BC.



  • Ben Atkinson