The yoga mat can be the most innocent of humbling devices you may ever come across. So many times I hear comments from students about how flexible they used to be, the things they used to be able to do, how they didn't know they were going to sweat. Or there is usually someone making the competitive comment before we start - "How hard can a little stretching be?". And then the crying and the whining start. Ok - maybe not really crying, but I do hear whining. It can be an especially humbling experience for those that are used to being in charge and excelling at other areas of their life. I encourage them to relax, consider it a benchmark, pay attention to the feelings in their body breathe. I suggest they modify the pose to make the pose work for them and be open to taking things a little more slowly. It is hard for them to give in - but it is not giving up. Some day soon they will be laughing about that first day.
It is a lesson for us all - no matter what our position in life - to be open to learning from everyone and everything - even something as innocent looking as a rubber mat.