Would you believe it if someone told you 90% of yoga happens off the mat?
Yoga is a practice of love, compassion, gratitude, and commitment to oneself and to the collective. Sometimes we can’t make it to our mats, but that doesn’t mean that our yoga practice has stopped. When we practice yoga off the mat, we share the light of yoga with the world. It becomes the foundation for which we live our daily lives, and our lives as an individual and a collective improve. On the mat, yoga releases and opens the body through movement and breath, but off the mat practice, opens our mind and perspective. By practicing both, we grow into the whole self, body and mind, and more easefully experience union of all aspects of life.
Below are 4 ways you can begin sharing the light of yoga with yourself and the collective off the mat and in your daily life.
- Conscious Breathing
In a variety of ways, yoga helps us establish a relationship with our breath. By making a conscious effort to connect deeply to your inhales and exhales, you allow the body and the mind to settle into their own authentic rhythm. When you are established in that rhythm, you are able to better experience balance and a sense of stability from within.
Try this: For 1 minute, with eyes closed or opened, inhale and exhale for equal duration with a short pause in between- i.e. inhale for the count of 4 [more or less, but without strain], pause, then exhale for the count of 4, pause. After 1 minute, return to your natural breath and notice a sense of balance in the body and balance in the breath. Take about another minute before returning to the activities of your day to let the practice integrate.
Yoga is a practice of self love and compassion. It teaches you how to connect with the truest, most beautiful essence of who you are. By affirming your worth, you strengthen the self love muscle that guides you in career decisions, relationships, and more. It also builds a stronger relationship with your heart, which allows you to share love and compassion more genuinely and without expectations for yourself and others off the mat.
Examples: “ I am enough”
“I am grateful for my strengths”
“I am a being of love”
Try this: Shortly after waking up in the morning, find a comfortable place to sit and close your eyes for a couple of minutes. Notice how you feel, physically and energetically, and allow an affirmation to emerge. With eyes closed, say the statement in your head. Then say it again aloud with the eyes open. Allow that affirmation to be your guide throughout the day.
Gratitude practices ease the mind and body of anxiety. By remembering the good in the present moment, you are able to see more clearly the opportunities around you. It is a shift in perspective that helps establish responsiveness rather than reactiveness to situations that would perhaps cause us to forget the opportunity of the present and send us down an anxiety ridden path thinking about what is to come. Gratitude is the layer our practice by which all the possibilities of life blossom.
Try this: Before bed, write down three aspects of the day that you are grateful for. It could be as simple as “I am grateful for my bed,” or more personal like “I am grateful for my body.” Make this a daily practice and notice how anxiety and fear begin to shift into opportunities.
- Connect with Nature
When we come to our yoga mats, we give ourselves a chance to land and regroup from the daily stressors. But when we can’t make it to our mat, we can go to the ultimate place for reconnection and grounding: nature. Taking a trail walk, sitting in the sun, or walking with bare feet on grass gives the mind an opportunity to ‘plug in’ to the body and allows the whole self to re-establish its sense of balance. When we look at our own nature, such as body type, personality, characteristics, we may pass judgement or give evaluations. But when we look at the Earth, the natural world, we accept it for what it is; the beauty is just witnessed. By spending more time in the natural world, witnessing, we start to reconnect to the witness Self within us. We are able to better see ourselves and accept those characteristics that formerly may have been judged.
Try this: Give yourself some time to walk on a trail. Walk until you find a comfortable place to pause and sit for a while. Maybe bring a journal to write a gratitude list, affirmations, or observations about yourself in the natural space. Practice conscious breathing in order to experience the body/mind connection from within as you reconnect with the earth and yourself as a whole. When you feel complete, take your time going back out into the world from your walk.
Yoga is a gift that we can take with us and experience anywhere. We hope these practices serve you in the times that you can’t make it to your mat, but also when you can. The beautiful lessons to be learned through yoga in all forms stay with us and can be remembered and practiced both on and off the mat.