The Mat as Metaphor

“On the mat.” A simple phrase, but one said with meaning beyond a piece of material supporting students as they make shapes on the mat during a flow class. It’s a phrase I’ve heard it a lot. In fact, I’ve said it a lot (even written many times in these posts). It’s said with variation when talking about what happens when we step on the mat. Or how we can take the things we learn on our mat out into the world. That’s a lot for an object we use for only an hour a day, a couple of days a week.

Why are our mats held in such an esteem like this?

For me, it’s the symbolism. It’s what the mat represents: taking time out from a busy day to do something to nourish ourselves, for movement to stretch and strengthen. To breathe. Sure, sometimes a flow is just a physical practice, but sometimes it can be so much more. As the physical practice is just one of the eight limbs of yoga, the mat can also seem to be representative of the other philosophical practices for living.

In the midst of a busy day, going to class offers reminders to focus on the breath and the benefits that taking full, deep breaths can bring. It can offer movement after hours of sitting – or conversely moments of stillness when running around completing errands.  

I also feel good before class when I’m sitting on my mat and chatting with the person next to me. Or that post-yoga glow after class when students catch another’s eye and just smile. Making those kinds of connections and cultivating that kind of feeling is something I’d like to take with me out in the world, making those kinds of connections.

When talking about the idea of bringing those lessons off the mat, it’s also remembering to breathe, remembering to move and that idea of taking what you need. How might that work? It can be in between scheduled calls on a busy day, you push back from the keyboard and take a few slow, deep breathes. Maybe it’s the connections I talked about immediately above, wishing the person next to you well or even offering a smile or a “have a nice day.”

The next time you hear a teacher talk about taking something off the mat with you, I invite you to think about how you might do just that. What does this metaphor of “the mat” mean to you?

This is the part of a series of posts for The Mat Yoga Studio, sharing my thoughts and observations as a student only. The views and opinions are my own experience.


Patricia returned to Texas after spending several years on both coasts. She's a writer, amateur photographer and traveler.

One Comment:

  1. Lovely, thank you.

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