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Finding Peace on the Mat - National Stress Awareness Month

April is known as National Stress Awareness Month. The following article is reprinted with permission from the author and The Quality of Life, Health & Wellness Committee of the Alabama State Bar. Susan is also a Local Advisory Council member of AIM.


yoga mat in yoga studio


We all know that we benefit from self-care, but the challenge is making time for it. As attorneys, spouses, and parents, we frequently make time for everyone else but ourselves. An important aspect of self-care is finding time for exercise. There are tremendous benefits from even a twenty-minute walk, but I have found a particular benefit from the one-hour yoga class that I have been attending weekly.


I’ve noticed that when it comes time for me to attend my Monday yoga class, I frequently tell myself, “I do not have time for this. I want to go but I really need to be working on X.” As I drive to the class, my mind is often racing with all the things that I need to be doing, both for work and personally. However, since I have prepaid for the private yoga class and my best friend is taking the same class with me, I feel more accountability about going to the class.


As I walk into the class, I frequently feel charged with thoughts about a response I need to file to a brief that was just filed by opposing counsel or work that needs to be done for a new client with an emergency matter. As I sit at the top of my yoga mat, preparing for my class, I am still immersed in thoughts about my work and personal obligations.


It is not until I engage in the practice of yoga that I start to calm down. Through the combination of breath (pranayama) and yoga postures (asanas), I gradually calm my racing mind and bring myself back to center.


The style of yoga that I practice, Ashtanga yoga, has a prescribed set of postures in a primary and secondary series. My yoga teacher leads the class primarily from the primary series and introduces a few postures from the secondary series. We start the class with a warmup of six to eight sun salutations and then move through the postures in the standing series for the first half of the class. The second half of the class is the seated series, with the seated postures, and it is interspersed with vinyasas to keep our bodies warm. The movement into each posture is coordinated with breath, through inhales and exhales.


By the end of the class, when I am lying on the mat in the resting pose called savasana, my mind is still. The contrast between my racing mind at the beginning of class and the peace and calm I feel at the end of class feels quite extraordinary. The obligations I have feel less all-consuming. I feel more prepared to systemically work through what needs to be done on a matter. I am in a better position to act responsively rather than reactively. I ask myself at the end of the class, “How could I not have time for this? This class is exactly what I needed.”

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