If I had read this title prior to starting my yoga journey, more than ten years ago, I would have judgementally scoffed and thought ‘heebie-jebbie nonsense’.
But now I can sincerely say my mat is a sacred space.
So why the change of heart? Coming from childhood trauma, being in the here and now was not something I was afforded.
Over the years I formed a behavioural pattern of either living in fear of the past or in anxiety of the future replaying the past, leading to a self-fulfilling prophecy.
I was sadly unaware that you could also reside in the present moment, the only space over which we have power.
My relationship with my yoga mat started in earnest once I stopped trying to compete with my fellow students, drew the practice inward and truly practised Ahimsa (Non-Violence), particularly towards myself.
I started first to explore the possibilities that my own body held, developing a physical strength far beyond anything I had in my younger years. Then came the courage to explore my feelings about the past, but from the present moment. Being in the safety of the here and now making this unpacking of the past safe as the realisation trickled in that I was no longer in immediate danger.
The need to be on high alert constantly was not necessary anymore. I also started to dare to look at the possibility for positive future outcomes. Previously this had been too frightening to contemplate believing the fight, flight, freeze environment I had been born into was all that I had at my disposal.
I slowly started to experience my yoga mat as a safe space. Some days I came to the mat full of energy flowing through vinyasa after vinyasa, other days I barely moved. Coming back to my mat after childbirth, slightly bruised and tired not trusting of my ability, the day after the Brexit referendum practicing with tears slowly streaming down my face.
Occasionally I resisted getting on the mat at all. The mat absorbed and allowed everything I came with; it was all permitting.
Through the years I have, practiced on many different mats, my own, borrowed mats, mats drawn with a line in the sand and yet they all offered acceptance. Even though my practice was confined to this small 6x2 foot rectangle this was the most liberated space I had ever inhabited.
Residing on the mat made me brave, awakening a resilience that was deeply buried and allowing me to believe in my own potential pushing me forward, putting myself in new situations where I may fail.
Now when I come to my mat, several years after this epiphany, whether it is to teach or for personal practice there is a deep exhale that happens throughout my entire body as I am deeply grounded into the moment of now. Like a Pavlovian response that my mat evokes; mat means being present and deep connection.
Every time I leave the mat, I endeavour to take this authenticity of self with me. Transforming the strength I have created in my body into courage in my mind, the energy flowing freely.
To live the life I have now, not to rewind into the past or fast forward into the future. Now! To continue to transcend my trauma response. The true meaning of yoga practice is flowing beyond the mat into the everyday life.
Paraphrasing this journey into a couple of hundred words does not do it justice, it makes it sound linear, self-explanatory, it wasn’t. It took years and I am still evolving. This is the power of the mat, every visit there is something to learn, something to take away with you.
The mat is sacred.
It is my new found bravery on the mat that allowed me to believe I could write my story: The
confession: A Journey to Acceptance. Published by Mirror Books, Out 8 th June 2023.
About Maike Mullenders & the Speakers Collective
Maike Mullenders is a member of the Speakers Collective, an author and SOBS (Survivors of Bereavement by Suicide), volunteer and talks about the Importance of boundaries, Growing up with a parent with mental health issues and Learning to let go.
The Speakers Collective is a Social Enterprise. We work together with a shared commitment to challenge stigma, facilitate important conversations and promote learning on a variety of social issues. Please do contact us via email@example.com or call 020 8123 8250 with any enquiries.