April 27, 2017

Five Ways to Live your Yoga Off the Mat.

At the close of each class, I ask students to look back at their practice for any moments that stand out to them.

I suggest that these moments are seeds they can choose to take with them and nurture off the mat.

For those that came to the mat for a good sweat or an hour of chill, this can be confusing. How is triangle pose relevant to my daily life? It might not be. However, in my experience, yoga is fertile ground for growth.

The lessons we learn with our bodies, the challenges met by the mind on this six-foot rubber mat teach us our patterns and give us the chance to change. It is my hope as a teacher that students will be able to bring these breakthroughs off of the mat with them.

When I first began to understand what yoga could do for me as a person, I felt like I had to immediately renovate my whole life from the ground up. This can be overwhelming.

Here are some tricks I used to start making lasting changes in my life:

1. Write down your revelations.
During a recent practice, I noticed I was rushing to get to the next pose. I knew where I needed to go, and I wanted to be there now. I took a mental note of this tendency and later typed it into my phone amidst notes reminding me to pick up cat food and quotes about yoga.

It could be something brilliant your teacher said, a thought that struck a chord, or a note about how you were able to find more freedom in the pelvis by moving a certain way. No matter how small or silly it seems, write these revelations down. If you’re into journaling, maybe expand on these small tidbits with an entry.

2. Create a personal intention.
The revelation is the easy part. It comes out of seemingly nowhere to smack you in the face. Now what?

Once I realized that I was rushing, I decided to create an intention. This is a positive word or phrase used to focus the mind on the task at hand. The phrase can be general. For my transformation, I went with “I am here now,” because those transition spaces feel nebulous and difficult to get a hold of. Or the intention might be more specific: “I stand tall when I root through the big toe.” Take some time to find an intention that is both easy to recall and packs feeling behind it.

3. Incorporate your intention into one area of your life.
Along with rushing through my practice, I have been in the habit of rushing through transitions off the mat. Anything I don’t deem worthwhile is brushed to the side or hurried through.

Fixing everything in one day might be appealing to my perfectionist nature, but it quickly becomes too daunting. So I chose to take myself to task while washing dishes—one of my least favorite chores. However long it takes, I commit to washing the dishes and staying present.

One of the downfalls to creating positive change is trying to do it all at once. This can be overwhelming, and after a few days it seems easier to give up. Choose once place to start.

4. Rinse, wash, repeat.
I committed to the dish-washing exercise for one week. At the end of the week, I assessed my intention and resolved to commit for another week. At the end of this week, I will decide whether to repeat again, try tackling another area of my life, or create a new intention.

Repetition is key. The more we use something, the more integral it becomes to our being. Set the intention for a week in class or choose a longer amount of time to develop the intention. Before you move on to a new aspect or a completely new intention, evaluate your progress with the current one.

5. Celebrate your victories.

Instead of focusing on all the times you did not meet your intention, focus on the times that you did. If you find that the intention is not working for you, maybe it needs to be more specific or you need to try it out in a different part of your life. If it still doesn’t jive, let it go.

There are many ways to live your yoga. The practice on the mat is only the beginning.

All of the wisdom we cultivate through physical movement and mindfulness can be carried with us. With consistent effort, we are capable of creating real and lasting change in our lives off the mat.

Author: Jennifer Elise
Image: Author’s Own
Editor: Nicole Cameron

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