Photo attributed to The Guardian link on the photo.

Starting Out Smart & Safe in Yoga

Dear Emma and Olivia,

This morning in Arizona I received a wonderful note from your teacher that explained how you were preparing to start yoga in your after school program. She shared that you’d done some research on yoga and found this site about being Smart & Safe in yoga. I’m glad to hear you found it helpful.

What I’m really excited about though is that you two did further research to learn how yoga can benefit you BEFORE you started your classes. Oh, that adults were as wise as you two! Your teacher mentioned you found a blog post about easing back pain with simple yoga poses. She wanted to surprise you by asking me to add it to my list of resources on my site. I thought giving you your own blog posting would be more fun AND offer a learning opportunity for you and your smart class mates as you start yoga.

The learning opportunity is that right now the adults are having a hard time agreeing on what is Smart and Safe…and even what is true or not. Sometimes it feels to me like maybe we should develop “after-work” lesson plans for the adults on getting along and studying “What is true?”! Have you noticed the silly arguing going on among the adults? That’s why I’m so excited to learn that you actually were smart and decided to seek a deeper understanding of a subject and ask an expert to learn more about what is true.

What’s “more” in this case about yoga? Well the “more” is that in the USA much of what people call “yoga” is actually only a small part of the wonderful benefits this very old science has to give us (and your class). Yoga asks AND answers, what is suffering/pain AND what can we do about it? Great questions, to include the partial answer about doing poses to relieve back pain in the link you found. However, yogins (people who do a full yoga practice), always work to learn and understand more beyond the “simple” answers we use to sell things here or to try to make back pain go away. Notice on the ads on TV now with the holidays approaching. You are smart enough to see through the silly idea that giving a mom or dad a new car with a red bow is not really going to make them happy beyond the momentary surprise, right? Giving “stuff” doesn’t fix pain and suffering for long.

Answering the question of what does  fix pain and suffering is exactly what deep, full yoga does. You know that better than the silly ad, what makes your parents really happy is when they feel safe and know that others love them, or maybe for a single parent, that they have others in their lives that care for them and  both hope those people will be there to laugh and cry no matter what happens, to include their children. Why does this connection with others work? The yogis say it’s because we are all connected to one another and how we treat one another, as well as how we move and treat ourselves, is so important! This web of connection (yoga means yoked/connected) can be made stronger by studying Smart & Safe yoga. The poses are only a small part of yoga. How we treat ourselves and others is even more important according to them, with “non-harming” being the number one thing to learn! (See the Yamas and Niyamas)

Why is that important to remember for something like the back pain post of just doing poses? It is important because we now understand what the yogis have taught: Pain/Suffering/Duhkha are signals to us to stop when we feel pain and ask deeper questions about why we have pain.

It turns out science tells us just doing some more exercises is of very limited good. What science tells us is what the yogis taught: pain is a signal we need to change. We now know that back pain can come from so many things, not just tight or weak muscles. Think about it: have you ever had something happen or someone say or do something to you that made you really sad or disappointed? Can you remember how that “felt” in your body? Maybe your throat tightened, or your heart, chest or tummy hurt? Because we are all connected, many things can cause pain and only in looking for where we lose connection or caring for others (our self, people, animals, our planet, etc.) and then only when we sew together or yoke that connection back together does the pain go away! In fact, almost 2000 years ago they wrote down many lessons of yoga and called them “Sutras”, which is the root for doctor’s word for stitches to sew a wound together: Sutures!

Attributed to The Guardian

So in closing, I want to thank you for teaching we adults a better way to learn by looking for what is true and real at a deeper level.

As you start your class, remember you will be slowing down and looking inside yourself first, to learn & discover how you feel, and then how the different parts of yoga change those feelings. By doing that you will start to build an even better and safer world. Here’s a wonderful article from England about how yoga/mindfulness (a part of yoga) helps children to feel safe and live a life with more joy. This is the real “yoga” and why you are so lucky your teachers  taking good care of you.

But we aren’t quite done. You see when you ask for something (me to share your findings), I can also ask for something back because we are all connected and feel safe to ask for something I need too. What do I want to ask for?

That you go home and teach your parent(s) what you learn in yoga. You announce, “Ok everybody, turn off the TV, turn off your phones, and let’s do yoga together for 15 minutes”…every night.

Thank you for making my Friday so special. If you have other questions, please have yourteachers post them in the comments below. Have fun in yoga!

~ YogaMatt



  1. Teri Roseman on December 1, 2018 at 7:43 am

    Thank you Mat for such a poignant response. I’m going to share it!

  2. Deb May on December 1, 2018 at 12:34 pm

    LOVE this! Sounds like you had a great time responding – Your Heart is shining in your words, Matt <3 🙂

  3. Pat Barnes on December 2, 2018 at 10:37 am

    Well done, Matt! Thanks once again. Namaste