Off The Mat Yoga


Off-the-mat yoga became real to me this
week. I don’t mean lovely things are happening that might indirectly be connected to my yoga and meditation practices. I mean that I am witnessing significant, substantial changes in life that feel directly connected to my morning practice.

We’re in the middle of a theatre production involving late
nights, mornings that are less than perky, half-hearted physical
practice, and groggy meditations.

Nonetheless, I am amazed at how personal
practice has shaped who I am off the mat and in the theatre.

Here are the most noticeable changes:

  1. Calmness in the face of disaster. We have an actor-cat, Otis, who decided this week that he
    is a free agent. Two nights ago he slipped from his harness,
    mid-scene, and escaped an entire backstage crew while his poor scene
    partner ad libbed on stage in his absence (“I have a cat here
    somewhere. I do!”). I sat backstage and breathed deeply, knowing everything would be all right. We considered the whole thing a one-off until
    Otis escaped again last night. A year ago I would have sworn a blue
    streak and stopped breathing altogether. A year ago I would have
    fantasized about stringing Otis up by his wayward paws. This calmness is very strange.

  2. My preparation for stage (think of
    yours for public presentations, interviews, weddings, and funerals)
    used be a kind of mental Olympic event that involved winding up, going over and over lines, recreating elaborate emotional
    states, and trying unsuccessfully to calm my nervousness. The result
    was that I wasn’t really present by the time I walked on stage.

    All I do now is
    relax into my body, warm my voice, breathe fully, and trust. The resulting
    focused calm as I walk on stage is a miracle.

  1. Every night is a first. Forget
    the cat. Forget the people who love our work, the people who
    don’t, and the insecurities that rear their pathetic heads. Forget the people in the front row who chatted loudly all
    the way through last night’s performance (“Oh, look at her
    dress! I had a dress like that once. Maybe that is my dress!”).
    Let the hostages go. There is no point in letting yesterday hijack
    today’s energy.

    I knew this one in my head before. Now
    my body knows it.

Breathe when things get challenging,
relax and trust, and now is all there is. Off-the-mat yoga. It’s
working. Yoga is having its way with me. It’s like something blooming in unexpected places. And holy moly, it feels good.

What have you seen off the mat?

Thanks to yoga for changing everything.
Thanks to you for the conversation,


Kristin Shepherd is a chiropractor, actor, and speaker (About All
Things Wonderful) in North Bay, Ontario.  Join her on the
and on

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