The Enlightening Mat: Unlocking Choices

key to choice

The holidays have landed. For many of us, along with giving from our hearts, celebration, and reconnecting with loved ones comes emotional stress.

During this season when happiness is the marketed mantra, many times what we truly feel is quite the opposite. I've noticed that my stress usually stems from the belief that I don't have the power to choose for myself.

For example, you may feel forced to spend time with relatives who don't contribute to your well-being. Or perhaps you have to shop for holiday gifts for the family, but you're so beat up from work you'd rather be at home curled up with a good book. There is a tug o' war between what you want to choose for your Self, and what you feel you must do for the good of others.

Choice is a gigantic universal need. It's so huge that often we don't recognize this need is going unmet because it subtly lies beneath the surface of our more colorful needs like love, nurturing, adventure, creativity, etc.

Consciously choosing how you spend your time is a way that you decide the outcomes in your life. Searching for choices in situations where you feel as if you have no choice is one way you can empower and take responsibility for your life.

For instance, during a Bikram yoga class, maybe I don't have any choice about the instructor, the temperature of the room, who stands next to me, and what is said, but I do have a choice in how I act. How I am in a situation that is out of my control is completely up to me. I get to make the decisions regarding my behavior, words, and intentions.

In addition to choosing how you are in any given situation, you can also choose why you are having the experience. You get to decide why you go to work, why you pick up the kids from school, why you visit your in-laws, why you're looking for a job, etc.

Unlocking the choices surrounding how you do something and why takes some practice, which is one the reasons I'm drawn to Bikram yoga. Often a physically and emotionally stressful experience, Bikram yoga always asks me to make choices regarding how I act and why I'm there. Learning to seek out these choices in the safety of the yoga room then leaks into my daily life, where instead of focusing on the powerlessness of my situation, I grab on to making decisions about how I act and why I'm there.

For instance, if I have to go to my partner's holiday work party, which isn't fun for me, I can still choose what I say and do while I'm there that feels most genuinely like me. More importantly, why am I going in the first place? What personal needs am I fulfilling? Is it to support my partner so as to build trust and love in our relationship? Is it to bond with each other? Or am I trying to create a sense of safety because my partner's job is in flux? Once you take an experience out of the context of something that you feel forced to do and look at your situation through a lens regarding how you act and why you're doing it, then you have unlocked the silent freedom and power of choice that lies within you.

The Enlightening Mat is a blog series exploring moments of awareness that come to Beth Hemmila while practicing Bikram Yoga.

To shop for yoga charms that celebrate the different poses click here to view this blog post Sterling Silver Charms for Bikram Yoga Postures


  1. Great post!. Your scenario about the partner's party... as I was told one must 'pick their battles'.... so to speak... but the important thing is to have the courage to make the choice... and to have the trust that the partner is someone you know well enough that whatever choice u make will have the maturity and understanding of that choice... if not, then, I guess both are definitely not on the same page.

    1. I think you make a great point! Having courage to make the choice and recognizing that it's all up to you is so key :)

  2. Thanks Beth. This came at a good time as now I am recouping from a cold and sore throat given to me lovingly from the grandkids. :)

    Cathy Obbema

    1. Oh dear! I'm glad this message was just what you needed. Thanks for stopping by to connect :)


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