In the last class I took with internationally recognized yoga teacher Seane Corn, she said: “The body remembers everything.”
And, in fact, it’s actually pretty amazing. You can think back to a past romance and the butterflies come straight back. Or you can recall a former loss and that awful feeling in your pit of your stomach will still physically manifest. I often talk about muscle memory in my own classes as a form of building habits in our practice, but really, the body is remembering much more than just the physical position it’s in and the muscles that are engaged.
I’ll be the first to admit I was skeptical when other yoga teachers talked about applying what we learned on the mat “off the mat.” Sure I might learn to overcome a challenging pose in class, but when I’m faced with a challenge at the office or in a totally different context, I wasn’t going to remember that hippie-dippy shit they said me in child’s pose 3 weeks before.
But that’s just it, we don’t always have to remember. Every time we find a way to let go after getting frustrated in a pose, push ourselves to our edge, or really allow ourselves to lean into an emotion, we build that response deep into our nervous system’s toolbox. Then, when we’re confronted by stress, anger or any other trigger in our everyday lives, our bodies have learned how to manage it: to breathe, to deescalate, to find an alternative to their standard fight or flight response. It’s precisely why what we learn on the mat continues to be so powerful when we step out of those doors and into the real world again.
So whatever it is, try to bring your intention, your change, your work, to the mat first. Build it into your body, and watch what happens.