When I end my yoga classes, I always encourage students to take a breath of gratitude for themselves and the fact that they made it to their mat. That alone is challenging.
There are the commutes, the childcare arrangements, the family schedules and the parking. It’s a lot of work just to find some inner peace!
Since I became a mother, it is no longer as easy to get to a class whenever I want.
However, there are so many other aspects of yoga we can practice that have nothing to do with our yoga mats. We sometimes think of yoga as just the nice pants, the spacious studios and the pretty pretzel shapes. But that is just the asana, or what we do with our physical bodies—our containers for our spirits.
When we are not able to practice asana or get to the mat, we can still be practicing yogis and yogini in other ways. We can still use the guidelines and beliefs around yoga to shine our lights brightly.
Here are some yogic things we can do, right now, that do not involve a yoga mat:
We can practice pranayama.
Simply put, breathe and breathe deeply. Running late to work? Your toddler is throwing a temper tantrum in aisle five? Drafting an email in response to something super annoying? Breathe! Relax the shoulders, soften the jaw and breathe right into the belly. Breathe again in the same way. You’ve got an instant yoga class right there, no studio time required.
We can practice ahimsa, which basically means non-harming.
This can be interpreted in a variety of ways, which is one of the nice things about yoga. We can practice non-harming to ourselves when we monitor our negative and self-defeating thoughts. Most of us have some crazy story or broken record that plays in our heads. We are not smart enough, thin enough, curvy enough, talented enough or rich enough. Noticing those thoughts, and starting to let them pass, can be a way we practice ahimsa towards ourselves.
We can also notice our thoughts, intentions and actions toward others. Are they stemming from kindness? Some interpret ahimsa to mean non-violence toward all creatures, and thus adapt a vegetarian or vegan diet. Diving into a big plate of veggies that nourish our physical bodies (and for which no sentient beings have suffered) can be instantly uplifting. Maybe we can’t make it to that 6:30 p.m. yoga class every night, but we can certainly choose non-violent meals for dinner.
We can practice satya and think of it as meaning truthfulness.
On a basic level, this means telling the truth, or not lying. But it can also mean being true to ourselves and speaking our truths. It’s saying when we need a break. It’s asking for help when we need it, even when it is uncomfortable. It’s saying, loudly and proudly, when we feel happy, loved and grateful, without worrying about judgment for being fake or “too happy.” There is a freedom in being true to ourselves, much like the freedom we feel from a deep back bend or heart opening pose. Maybe we can open our throat chakras not just from a physical yoga pose, but in speaking truthfully.
As situations change in our lives, it is sometimes unrealistic to get to a studio and onto our mat for a full 60-minute practice. But as yogis and yogini, we can all aspire to bring these yogic principles outside the studio doors and into our hearts to share peace and love with the world.
Author: Logan Kinney
Apprentice Editor: Terry Price / Editor: Toby Israel
Image: Cecille Photography