Lessons From The Mat: Stop Taking Yourself So Seriously


By Kate Kole

My yoga practice continues to be one of the greatest teachers in my life. It has a way of shining a light on the feelings and experiences I’ve managed to successfully look past, bury within me, or chosen not to prioritize. As I’m going about the rest of my day, I can typically multitask enough to escape discomfort and avoid depth. But once I’ve rolled out my mat, silenced my phone, and stripped away my usual accomplices to distraction, I’m left to face whatever I’ve stowed away. I begin to move from a place of feeling intuitively rather than thinking analytically.

A few days ago, we entered into the balancing sequence of a class I was taking. I wobbled and swayed, struggling to hold the pose. My breath shortened as frustration and impatience flooded my body. I could feel my jaw clenching and my once locked gaze beginning to shift around the room. And in that moment, it dawned on me how unnecessarily seriously I was taking myself.

I thought to when I taught kid’s yoga and how they’d giggle as they came into and stumbled out of each balancing pose. How they’d instantly accept my challenge to close their eyes in tree, knowing that once they did, their lifted feet would surely fall back to the floor. Then with resiliency and a commitment to having fun, they’d jump right back into the pose. They saw the practice as a game, an opportunity to play.

Although I didn’t discover yoga as a child, I’m sure I would have viewed it in that same lighthearted way. I was the girl who’d find any way she could to laugh. I’d memorize and recite lines from “Dumb and Dumber,” act out scenes from “SNL”, take morning walks in my bathrobe, and break out my best dance moves in aisle 7 of the grocery store. Just because it felt good.

I’m not sure when that changed. When that started to go away. When I first started to replace being silly with being serious. When I began believing that being an adult somehow meant I needed to treat life like a chore or task that I needed to get through and cross off my to-do-list.

My lesson in that moment of trying with all my adult might to steadily lift one leg off the ground had little to do with balancing my body. It had everything to do with balancing my life – of adding in a little play to accompany all my straight faced and straight laced seriousness. To reconnect with the parts of myself that once prioritized enjoying life over rushing through it and appreciated the imperfect process over the polished end result.

Of course, there are still moments throughout the day that deserve my focused attention, that merit a more serious mentality. But alongside the discipline and the drive to do things well is the knowing that I don’t have to be so rigid with myself and with my life. That I can find humor, laugh easily, and express joy, too.