We’ve all had that experience post-yoga where we think: okay, I can do this—I can take on the world.
I can start my day now or even my week—heck—maybe even the rest of my life feeling this way. Try your best screaming children, stressful traffic jams, running-late-agains, racing mind, long lists of to-dos—I got this.
And then: enter reality.
Screaming children, stressful traffic jams, running-late-agains, racing mind, long lists of to-dos, and poof that “yoga high” is gone.
So, how do we keep that zen feeling long after we’ve rolled up our mats?
Here are a few of the reminders that have helped me apply the lessons I have learned on the mat into my life off the mat—long to-do lists and all.
Set an intention that works both on and off the mat.
At the start of my practice, I always like to set an intention or state a feeling that I would like to feel during my practice.
Usually, I say: I want peace. I want to feel strong. I want to push myself. I want to be kind to myself.
I try to line up my intention for my physical practice with what I am needing in my day-to-day life.
As the class progresses and the physical aspect of it becomes more demanding, my breath quickens, and my mind begins to drift—it’s at this moment that I try to come back to my intention.
When the practice is complete (and it really never is), I like to take a few seconds to pause and recommit to my intention.
How can I take this feeling into my life when interacting with others?
How can I bring this feeling into my home and work life?
And even though there is no hard and fast rule for how to do this, my simple answer is practice. Just as we practice yoga, we need to practice incorporating what we learn and feel on the mat into our daily lives.
Don’t let your mind get the best of you: it’s all about breath.
Whenever my kids can’t sleep, the first thing I tell them is: focus on your breath. The same thought holds true for so many aspects of life.
When we feel stressed: we can focus on our breath. When someone really ticks us off, before we react: we can focus on our breath. When we are feeling overwhelmed and can’t find a starting point: we can focus on our breath.
The same principle is true for both the physical practice of yoga and our lives outside the studio.
In yoga, we use the breath to focus our mind, to deepen a pose, to find softness or balance, to release tension.
Off the mat, we know that breath is essential, but we don’t tend to focus on it. Breathing is more of a reflex—something that can be done without thought.
But when we bring awareness to the breath, we can use it to relax the body and reduce tension and stress.
We can use the breath to slow down and live more fully in the moment.
Know when to push forward and when to pull back.
You know when you’re in class and you’re holding a pose and the tension becomes more than you can take? Your muscles tighten and cramp, you think you’ve reached your breaking point and you want to give up.
But your cheery, well-meaning instructor reminds you to breathe into the pose.
And, when you do, you notice that you can find some ease, some softness, and maybe even hold the pose just a tiny bit longer.
On the other hand, maybe the instructor cues or models a pose that looks like only a contortionist could get themselves into. You look around the room at the other yogis coming into the shape with ease, and you think they must all be former gymnasts.
Your ego tells you to try the pose—so you attempt to pick up limbs and place them in ways that feel completely unnatural. You feel pain, and you know this is not going to happen.
This is the moment when we back off. We take a breath. We come to Child’s pose.
The same idea holds true off the mat.
Sometimes, we think we have hit our breaking point, but then our breath and our mindset helps us get through the challenge or even helps us accomplish goals we never thought were possible.
Other times, we need to listen to that inner voice and know if something is not for us.
We have to ask: why do I want to accomplish this goal? Is it something I really want or need? If the answer is no, let it go and move on.
The beauty of yoga is that it is called yoga “practice.”
Just like it takes practice on the mat to get into a pose, it takes practice off the mat to apply what we learn into our day-to-day lives.
And, of course, like anything, it’s easier said than done. But all we can do is take life one moment, one breath at a time.
And when we fall down—because we all do—get back up and try again.