How to Practice Yoga off the Mat

We all know and love that post-yoga class euphoric feeling that we float out of the studio with. We feel grounded, present, happy, and connected to ourselves and those around us. We carry this feeling with us for quite some time after we step out of the studio doors; perhaps for several minutes or even hours.

After a while, however, that warm, fuzzy, dreamlike state starts to dissipate. Someone might say something snarky, perhaps you come home to a mess that needs to be cleaned up, or maybe you open up your dreaded inbox to a sea of emails that remind you of the countless things that you have to do. The world outside of the serene studio is full of stressful distractions that can quickly pull us out of ourselves, distance us from the world around us, and set us off balance.

If yoga teaches us anything, it’s that when things start to become uncomfortable, it’s time to pause, take a deep breath, focus, and re-set. Life is great at throwing lots of potentially uncomfortable circumstances our way, which is why it’s important to continue our practices even after savasana has come to an end. Here are 5 ways to practice yoga off the mat and create a more peaceful, fulfilling life for yourself.  

1) Set Intentions
At the beginning of a yoga class, teachers often have their students set an intention to keep in mind throughout the duration of their practice. This is a great way for the students to check in with themselves and notice how they’re feeling emotionally, physically, and spiritually. Once aware of their present state, the students are then able to take the time to think about what they would like to get out of their practice, what they would like to focus on, and how they would like to grow. These specific intentions allow each student to appropriately pace and modify their practice so that they get the most out of it. The same can be done in our daily lives. To really connect with yourself and get the most out of your day, set an intention for yourself in the morning and set gentle reminders to check in with that intention throughout the day. You’ll notice that you’ll go to bed with a lot of self-awareness and contentment.

2) Breathe Mindfully
With everything that we have going on in our lives, it’s easy to be overcome with emotions like stress, anger, or anxiety. When feelings like this flood over us, we tend to hold our breath, which actually then perpetuates the unpleasant emotions. Breathing is such a big part of yoga because it makes us more alert, grounds us, and keeps us going. When we step outside of the studio, we tend to forget to breathe consistently, even though breath has the same positive effects on us when we’re off the mat. When you start to feel uncomfortable emotions, take that as a cue to consciously slow down your breathing and make sure to take full, complete inhales and exhales. If you remind yourself to breathe like this throughout the day, you’ll notice that you’ll feel much less tension than you normally do.

3) Practice Presence and Gratitude
As we navigate through our day-to-day lives, many of us are on autopilot, hypnotized by our to-do lists. When we mindlessly meander like this, we aren’t giving ourselves permission to be fully immersed in the present moment. When practicing yoga, however, the many details that we need to constantly focus on keep us fully tuned in to the moment at hand. If our minds start to wander off, we are quickly thrown off balance physically, which reminds us to come back to a place of focus.

The same is true for when we are engaging in life outside of the studio. When we are not focused on the here and now, we are not totally in balance. Remembering to practice presence will bring us a deeper connection to what is happening both within us and around us. A great way to bring ourselves into the present moment is to pick one thing that we are grateful for within the moment that we’re in. Try setting a reminder to do this every hour. Remember that the outside world is a reflection of your inner world. You’ll soon notice that the more you choose to recognize beauty, the more beauty your outside world will have to offer you. 

4) Do No Harm
During yoga, we practice compassion towards ourselves as well as those around us. This virtue is described in many yogic teachings as Ahimsa, which means to do no harm and it applies to all living beings. The act of self-compassion and kindness towards all is one of the main ingredients of the euphoric bliss that we feel after a yoga class. Why should this practice remain within the confines of a yoga studio? There are many ways to minimize harm and maximize kindness in the world off the mat. Remembering to treat ourselves with love is key, whether that be through our internal self-talk, through the food that we put into our bodies, or who we choose to surround ourselves by. Showing kindness to others can be done by listening without judgement, giving before taking, or simply giving a passerby a smile. We can also show our home, Earth, compassion by exercising sustainable practices and limiting what we take and use for our own benefit. Once you get into the groove of this, you’ll notice that the ripple effect of doing no harm and focusing on love will travel wide and the effects of it will be long lasting. 

5) Learn to Let Go
Some days, you might be able to hold a balancing pose for minutes on end while, on others, even your mountain pose can feel wobbly. Yoga teaches us that both of these are perfect. Life naturally ebbs and flows and we do, too. The only thing that matters is that we put our best effort forward, regardless of what the outcome may be. As stated in the Bhagavad Gita, “Being indifferent to success and failure, this mental evenness is termed yoga.” While this attitude is key for a joyful and fulfilling yoga practice, is important to apply it to our everyday lives as well. You will never have total control over any given outcome, only your attitude towards it. Try living from a place of truth and detach yourself from outcomes. You’ll soon see that, with a lack of resistance, life has a funny way of falling into place.

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