After five years of practicing yoga almost daily, I still wasn’t sure what people meant by “living your yoga.”
Excuse me? How does one “live” yoga? It was an idea and an almost unattainable way of life I thought was reserved for the polished practitioners, teachers, and gurus. I’m sure many of my teachers had talked about it in countless classes since I had started practicing, but I must not have been ready or open to knowing.
It wasn’t until I went through yoga teacher training last fall that I was ready, and finally understood, what taking my yoga off the mat could look like. Don’t worry, you don’t have to become a yoga teacher to be able to start living your yoga now.
Bringing yoga off the mat may sound daunting and intimidating, but let me assure you that anyone can do it, and it’s easier than it may seem. In fact, I can almost guarantee you’re already doing it in more ways than one.
Let’s break it down in terms of the yamas and niyamas, ethical guidelines laid out in the first two limbs of the eight-limbed yogic path:
The five yamas:
1. Ahimsa, also known as non-violence. Be kind, always. Make a conscious effort to rise above the urge to judge, criticize, and compare. This applies to others and to yourself. We’re all just trying to do the best we can.
2. Satya, or truthfulness. Cut the B.S. and be wholly, unapologetically yourself. Being nice is pointless unless you’re being real and authentic. Don’t be afraid to speak your truth.
3. Asteya, or non-stealing. Find a balance between giving and receiving. When you make too many withdrawals from the bank without depositing, you run into problems, if you know what I mean.
4. Brahmacharya, or moderation. Too much of anything is, well, too much. Yes, even yoga.
5. Aparigraha, or non-attachment. Clean out that closet. When was the last time you wore those jeans? Do you really need that pair of shoes?
The five niyamas:
1. Saucha, which means cleanliness, purity. Surround yourself with people who bring out the best in you, and say “See you later,” to the people who create clutter in your space and weigh you down.
2. Santosha, or contentment. Make gratitude a daily practice. Rather than focusing on what you don’t have or what you want, appreciate the bounty of blessings already before you.
3. Tapas, or self-discipline. Kiss that comfort zone goodbye and lean into discomfort and uncertainty. In that space we learn, change, and grow.
4. Svadhyaya, or self-study, self-reflection. Be mindful of your thoughts and actions as they unfold and reflect on them later. Putting pen to paper or fingers to keyboard both work equally well. Journal, doodle, or draw. Whatever works for you.
5. Isvara-pranidhana, or devotion, surrender,and faith. Choose to believe in something bigger than and outside of yourself. Unicorns work – at least in my book – but I think something like the Universe is more along the lines of what the original creator had in mind.
So, there you have it. Ten easy and pragmatic ways to live your yoga outside of the four walls of the studio. Yes, it’s really that simple. What yamas and niyamas have you already been practicing? Which ones do you want to incorporate into your life? What other ways do you live your yoga? Let’s hear ‘em.
If you’re still not sure where to start, pick one or two that resonate with you and put them into practice. The beautiful thing about yoga is that it’s a never-ending journey, and there’s always more to learn and room for growth.
Author: Jenna Dailey
Photo: M Yashna/Flickr
Editor: Jean Weiss