Me and my mat by Jennifer Walden

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What did I learn during the SYB Challenge at Spotted Dog? The mat and the floor don’t change but my experience each time I step on the mat is different, until I hit that place of surrender. Peace, freedom, release – sometimes that happens early on, other times it doesn’t come until that moment of exhale at the end of class. I have learned they are all beautiful experiences and so indicative of my life experiences, the way I approach and hide from life.

Love Big Room at Spotted Dog Yoga

There have been a lot of looping thoughts going on in my head this month trying to talk me out of finishing, asking me what I am doing on the mat…in public no less. Then there are the beautiful thoughts coming more frequently reminding me how much I love movement. Noticing little changes that have happened since I started. I couldn’t do this or that, and here today I am stronger, more flexible, POWERFUL. Baby steps perhaps – but for the first time ever that is enough. For the first time ever this gift I am giving myself is about kindness, not deprivation, not self-attack dressed up to look like love. Practice is welcome. I understand I don’t need to know it all or be perfect, it is a Knowing with yoga, a leaning in that seems to be natural.

This newly rediscovered voice reminds me how good it feels to be committed, connected, to be showing my body love, attention and compassion – with no ulterior motive. The challenge kept me focused on coming back to my mat even when I wanted to quit because I didn’t want to face the feelings the movement seems to stir. I have a hard time identifying myself as someone who does yoga – that is not me, I say in my chatter, though my body tells another story. The challenge kept me coming back to meet beautiful and wonderful co-yogis on their mats with their own, sometimes similar chatter happening in their heads. I accepted the support of our beautiful teachers and community to guide me/us through the movement, the space between thought and the breath. And hopefully my presence provided support for others.

I have challenged myself to some pretty intense physical practices over the years and I always quit or hurt myself. I have always called it something else besides quitting – I can come up with some pretty inventive excuses and reasons. But it is quitting. This experience was different, it meant something different. It wasn’t about the scale, it wasn’t about cultural expectations of fitness and health. It was just me and my mat having some good heart to hearts. And I feel so very blessed to have found Spotted Dog, to find a place where my mat and I feel so welcome.

I have spent 20 of the 21 sessions in the Love Big room. It is where I needed to be – and thought my picture should come from that womb place, with the beautiful goddess who has been watching over my heart as it opens.

Thank you, thank you, thank you!

Jennifer Walden

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