19
Nov
2015
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Ways to practice yoga off the mat

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For most of us, yoga is practiced in a class. We disconnect for an hour or so, breathe, do the asanas, enjoy Savasana, roll up our mats and then immediately jump back into our busy lives a.k.a pull out your phone and check for messages the second you leave class.

But, I have many students who at end of class say they don’t want to leave..it’s because we all know that the calmness dissipates once you exit the room.

The thing is, you CAN keep that post-Savasana zen feeling with you. It’s good to know that yoga is actually a way of life. It is not just about completing a sequence of asanas. It’s about meditation, compassion, truth, non-violence, concentration and a whole lot more. All these yoga concepts are meant to be practiced even when we aren’t on our mats. 

For this post, I have listed some common yoga cues (or “seeds-being planted” as I like to call it) one hears in class that can easily be taken off the mat and into your world.

OH my God – get it…Peace…OFF the Mat?? So PUNNY! 😉

Yoga Cue #1: Give Gratitude for what you can do already

Have you heard this before in class? Yes, you have. I say it all the time. I say that so my students feel happy about what they are able to do. I don’t want them to focus on what they can’t do just yet (i.e inversions, backbends, etc).

Off the mat, we tend to beat ourselves up. Being negative and hard on yourself doesn’t do you any good. If you want to achieve a goal, the things that do work are a positive mentality, and an honest effort. So be happy with the gifts and talents you do have thus far and if you are working to improve your skills, then by all means go for it! But, please do so from a benevolent and warmhearted place.

Yoga Cue #2: Elongate your breaths

Oh yes – this is a very common thing to do in yoga. Us yoga teachers are constantly cuing our students to ssllloooowwww dowwwnnn their breathing. Controlled and slow breathing triggers the parasympathetic nervous system which conserves energy, slows the heart rate, and increases digestive activity.

In a yoga class, while attempting a tough pose, it is common that the teacher will adjust the asana to fit your body in such a way that your breathing is even. You end up benefiting more from the asana this way!

Now, take this concept off the mat. We all deal with a lot of stress triggers in life. When you encounter one of these situations, think about lengthening your inhales and exhales. As you slow down, you might begin to assess the situation with a more rational mind. We may not always be able to eliminate the source of the stress, but there are small adjustments we can make that help us cope. If we come at things from a more grounded place, we can reduce the amount of impulse that goes into your actions, which is ultimately a win-win for all those involved!
 

Yoga Cue #3: Just try something new without fear

Have you ever talked yourself out of doing a challenging yoga pose? Like an inversion?

It’s like “Err…uhh…that looks hard..uhh yeaa…no..I can’t..oh my God..look at this person…she is so good..err uhh yea…that’s not me….”

We are scared and think we are going to hurt ourselves or that we are not ready for it. Sometimes, you might genuinely not be ready for a pose, but often enough, it’s our minds that hold us back, not our bodies. But, a wise yoga teacher once told me “I do not care if you do the pose and are able to hold it. I won’t judge you. Neither will your mat-mates. All I want you is for you to try with an open heart. You might surprise yourself.” I took her advice. I went for it. My crow pose was not perfect at all, but I just felt better that I tried!

In life, there are moments when we don’t attempt certain things because of fear and/or doubt. Are we good, strong, and capable enough? What if we fail and fall? But, you have to approach things every once a while with a childlike-like abandon. You just never know until you try! You are good, smart, strong and capable just as you are. You can do it.

Yoga Cue #4: Simply Observe

Often times, you hear your yoga teachers say “Observe how your body is doing” or “Talk to your body”. These cues take their derivation from the practice of mindfulness. Mindfulness involves observing the world around you, but not reacting or judging it.

To meditate means to observe – Thich Nhat Hanh

Similarly, when you are doing a body-scan of sorts in yoga, do your best to not mentally yell at your hamstrings for being tight, or at your shoulders for not bearing your weight in planks: just observe. Help, support, and encourage your body as needed.

Now, imagine this: In your day to day life, how would it feel to be just present and in the moment? How would it feel to be aware of all that is going on around you, but not reacting to it? Wouldn’t that be so damn peaceful and stress-free? It’s not an easy thing to achieve at all, but it’s something we can all immensely benefit from.

Mindfulness is the observing of things as they are, without laying or adding any projections or expectations onto what is happening  – Frank Jude Boccio

Yoga teaches us this. The present moment is what you make of it.

When you pause to speak, you respond less and listen more. When you breathe fully, you react less and contemplate more. When you take time to observe, you judge less and understand more. These mental practices will lead us to be more compassionate, thoughtful and calm versions of ourselves.

Ultimately, a peaceful and content state of mind is what we are striving for, isn’t it? The practice of yoga is immeasurable in this aspect.

Maybe with time and practice, your life will reflect the comic below from one of my favorite bloggers! 🙂

Credit to: http://fissosworld.com/yoga.html

Thanks so much for stopping by and reading!

Namaste

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4 Responses

  1. Ashley

    You are so good at this! I’m sitting in a hotel lobby in Kansas City and this is exactly what I needed to read this morning. Thank your for shining your light even when I’m halfway across the country. Love you!!!

  2. Thank you for this pep talk! You have the gift of using simple and positive words to talk about taking yoga off the mat and into daily life. As simple as a breath! Feeling the sweetness. THANK YOU!

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