By Kate Kole
Relax your jaw. Soften your shoulders away from your ears. Take a deep breath in through your nose. Exhale out through your mouth. Set your intention. Fix your gaze. Be here now, I tell myself.
Noise escapes through the baby monitor and I look to see my toddler pull himself to a standing position in his crib. Turning off the device, I glance at the clock on our kitchen stove.
“7 minutes”, I whisper. Good enough for today.
That’s how most of my yoga practices seem to be right now. Squeezed in quickly before the sun has risen and the baby is up.
I don’t have the warm heat of a studio surrounding me or another teacher’s voice guiding me from one pose to another, one breath to another. It’s typically with pajamas on and dog hair shed beneath me that I find myself moving through cats and cows, forward folds and crescent lunges.
I’ll notice the worn in spaces where my hands and feet settle often and the thought occurs, it’s probably time for a new mat. One with better grip and padding.
But, there’s something about this one that feels sacred.
It’s seen me through teaching to a room full of strangers, praying for courage that would override my fears. It’s held my tears on days that I didn’t want to talk about my feelings aloud. It’s carried my body through pregnancy and postpartum without comment of size or judgment of capability. It’s reminded me of who I am, what makes me feel alive, at times when I’ve forgotten.
I know, I know, it’s just a mat. Rectangular rubber underneath me. The simplest of things. But it’s more than that. The same way that every time I clean out my closet, I can’t bring myself to part with the t-shirt purchased during my husband’s and my wedding weekend. Never mind the fact I’ve never worn it and likely never will, it escapes every donation bin I fill. Much like the stained 101 Dalmatians hat I wore everyday in preschool, now stuffed alongside childhood stories penned and middle school yearbooks signed “HAGS” that fill a chest in our loft.
Tending towards minimalism, I sometimes wonder if it’s a little silly. After all, the memories of football games and trick-or-treating would remain without a bin full of pictures proving them. I’d have run half marathons without medals to show. My friendships would remain without the folded notes from 15 years ago, preserved as if they’ll some day belong in a museum.
Yet, like my yoga mat, those things are my markers. Reminding me of who I’ve been throughout each season of this journey so far. They’ve quietly granted me confidence, restored my faith, and carried me from one chapter to the next.
When the time does come for me to finally buy a new mat, I’ll keep this one in the corner. I’ll call it a back up, or a travel mat, or the one I use outdoors. But if I’m being honest, it will always be more than that. It will forever be the mat that held my 7-minute home practices interrupted by toddler wake up calls. The one that watched and patiently waited as I became a mom.