8 Practical Ways To Take Your Yoga Practice 'Off the Mat' And Into Your Life (as published in SivanaSpirit November of 2017)
I’ve been teaching yoga for lots of years now. Something we yoga teachers often tell our students is that a great benefit of their yoga practice is that it can, and should, extend beyond their mat and into their lives. But what does that mean in practical terms? After thinking about this, I came up with these 8 practical ways to take our practice off the mat and into our life.
Be Aware of Placement
Placing our hands and feet with care sets the foundation for all of our yoga poses. Careful placement is just as important in our lives. If we pay attention to our surroundings and place ourselves in the right environment, we can offer ourselves a better place to grow to our full potential.
Use Your Breath
We use our breath to help us stay present during our yoga practice. When we link our breath to our poses, our practice becomes more than just physical exercise – it can become a meditation. We can also use our breath to stay present in our lives. When we feel stressed if we bring our awareness to the breath we can often bring ourselves back to the present moment, back to our calm center.
Create Muscle Energy (Hug Into The Practices That Serve You)
In yoga, we contract our muscles into a firm yet gentle “hugging in” state to create a safe container to then lengthen or stretch into a pose. We can also use the principle of hugging in as we move through our lives. We may find ourselves torn with too many opportunities, too many decisions, too many moments of chaos. If we hug into the practices that serve us – yoga, meditation, a dedication to a spiritual practice, healthful eating, these things can make us stronger and more able to face life’s ups and downs.
Create Length (Open To Something More)
Even when we hug in and ground down into our mat, we also lengthen through our spine to sit and stand tall. As we hug into the things that serve us, it is beneficial to keep ourselves open to “something more”. It might be a new hobby, a new way of thinking, a new friend. “Creating length” in our lives keeps us challenged and keeps life truly “alive”.
Remember The Paradox of Yoga
Yoga offers us a great paradox. It asks us to accept ourselves just as we are, and at the same time shift, change, grow into a fuller, more complete version of ourselves. Life offers us the same paradox – the opportunity to learn to accept and appreciate ourselves just as we are, and at the same time seek opportunities to become a more expanded version of ourselves.
Bring Mindfulness To Your Routines
Our attention may wander during yoga practice. When this happens, we call ourselves back by bringing focus to our placement, our breath, our muscle energy. We can also find ways to call ourselves to mindfulness in the daily routines of our lives. Bringing mindful awareness to the tasks of our day can help us stay focused in the present moment and live our lives to a greater fullness.
Practice Loving Kindness To Yourself
When we are new to our yoga practice, we may tend to compare our “progress” with others. When we do this, we often fall into a habit of judging ourselves. In yoga we practice acceptance of just who we are. We show ourselves loving kindness. As we move through life, instead of judging ourselves and comparing our “successes” or “lack of successes” to others, what if we could develop a habit of being kind and loving to ourselves? Anytime we hear that voice of self-criticism whispering in our ears, why not replace it with words of encouragement, acceptance, and loving-kindness?
Remember – It’s Called A Yoga Practice
We don’t call it our yoga perfect. We call it our yoga practice. We call it a practice because each time we come to our yoga mat, we practice accepting ourselves, challenging ourselves, creating a discipline for ourselves, loving ourselves, and so much more. We always try to come to our mat with a spirit of practice. Playful practice is even better. Why not approach our daily lives with this same spirit of practice. We can practice forgiving ourselves, loving ourselves, laughing with ourselves, nurturing ourselves. We’re not always going to get it right. It’s not ever going to be perfect. Why not face life with a spirit of practice? Let’s make that playful practice.
To read my article as it appeared in SivanaSpirit, copy and paste the link below:
Kathy is a Yogasana (physical yoga) and Nada Yoga (Yoga of Sound) teacher. She facilitates Women's Wisdom Circles, is skilled at storytelling and loves leading heartfelt discussions. She is certified in teaching Sanskrit, Vedic Mantra and other sound based practices.