Finding Your Yoga Off the Mat
Go from a human being doing yoga to a human being yoga” ~ Baron Baptiste
When your yoga teacher goes on vacation – what do you do? Do you take a day off from exercising? Run out to find an available spot in the nearest fitness class? Try a few poses on your own when you feel the urge to “get your yoga on”?
Why not take advantage of the time off the mat to practice bringing yoga into your life wherever you find yourself. Here are a few ideas:
Breathe (right here, right now) Take a moment out for pranayama (yogic breathing). Close your eyes and begin to notice your breath. For an easy, self-guided practice, try Balanced Breath. To practice balanced breath, sit or lie down comfortably. Allow your breath to settle and close your eyes. Notice and count the length of your inhalation without judgement. If you breath in for a count of “3”, try to exhale for a count of “3”. If you are able to take in a deeper, slower breath, begin to match this with a fuller, slower exhalation. Do not force the breath, just notice and direct it.
Review the Yamas and Niyamas and reflect on how you can allow these moral principles to guide your life. These are like the 10 commandments of Yoga. The Yamas include: nonviolence, truthfulness, non-stealing, continence and non-covetousness. These 5 principles guide how we interact with the world and the people around us. The Niyamas are cleanliness, contentment, spiritual austerity, self-study, and surrender to God. You can simply choose one of these and set off on a walk (without your headphones and phone) and contemplate the impact of this principle on your life. If you would like more information on beginning to learn from these principles, check out this Yoga Journal Article.
Practice a restorative pose at home. Try lying on the floor with your shins on an ottoman, couch or chair such that your hips and knees are both at approximately a 90 degree angle. Place a small towel or support under the base of your skull. Or, you can rest on the floor or your bed and put your “legs up the wall”. For whatever position you choose, support yourself fully and then rest and breathe for at least 5 minutes. These gently inversions will allow your mind to settle and your cells to breath and balance without any effort at all from you other than setting aside the time.
Start your meditation practice. If you don’t know how to start, choose one of the above activities and focus solely on each breath, or each step you take. When your mind begins to wander, do not judge or give up, gently bring your awareness back to the breath, the step or the intention. Even if you have to do this hundreds of times. Set a time period between 5 and 10 minutes and a gentle alarm to notify you of the end of the meditation. There are as many forms of meditation as there are forms & styles of yoga – if one doesn’t work for you, try another, or consider a private meditation counseling session to help you find your way.
Journal Gratitude. So simple. Try the 4:2:1 exercise. Name 4 great things that happened to you this week, 2 things you are grateful for, and 1 thing you are awesome at.
These are some things I do when I am away. Even though I can (and do) practice asanas on my own, I find that the other limbs of yoga can be just as rewarding and when I return to my mat, my practice there is deeper and more effective. Hope they work for you as well. See you next week.