Ever find yourself tuning out on your yoga mat rather than tuning in?
These days, we live at such a maddening pace that our yoga can become more of a refuge from life rather than an opportunity to transform it.
We're all a little guilty of giving our practice away at times—becoming detached from ourselves on the mat, falling into our patterns, even losing touch with why we practice. So why do you yoga?
Answers from the Ancients
According to Ayurveda, health, happiness, and enduring vitality are represented by the existence of harmony or balance within and without. And everything we do has the potential to create or disrupt it.
Yoga can help tip the balance in our favour, if we practice in a way that is intentional. In other words, if we're clear about who we are and why we're choosing yoga (as opposed to a glass a red wine), if we connect with what we need, and most of all, if we own our practice.
Time for a Tune-In
So if you're ready to take your practice back, know that creating balance on and off the mat starts with a look inside. Something as easy as taking a pause before you step on your mat, to remind yourself of who you are, can be all it takes to connect to your centre and revitalize your practice.
This simple little series of inquiries will reconnect you to how and why you're showing up, and takes little more than a few moments. So ask yourself the following.
1. Who am I?
Tune into your tendencies and patterns and recognize where you're likely to hold back or push too far. Acknowledging and accepting who you are in your practice and your life will give you the space to express yourself in the healthiest way on the mat, without self-criticism or judgement.
If your primary dosha is vata you may find yourself distracted or anxious on the mat. You'll be drawn to movement and flow, and might feel compelled to do your own thing.
Your flexibility and adaptability might make some aspects of the practice seem effortless, but they'll be balanced out by your need to build strength.
If pitta is your primary dosha you'll crave intensity in your yoga (at any cost) and will often find yourself competing with your classmates (and yourself).
You'll be the one desperately seeking your edge—so that you can push beyond it. You may find it challenging to settle your mind and body. And if the practice is any less than a workout, you'll likely dismiss it.
If your dominant dosha is kapha, you'll tend to hang out in your comfort zone, take it easy, move less, and chill more. You might even find yourself giving up when things start to get a little heated.
You'll have the flexibility and strength to handle any level of practice, but may just prefer to throw yourself entirely into the full expression of savasana.
2. What needs balancing?
Another way to ask this question is, “What feels off?” Tuning into how you feel creates an awareness that will inform everything you do on the mat and off. Understanding who you are might help you know what to look for.
Vatas may feel anxious, scattered, or weak, with digestive upset or stiff muscles.
Pittas may show up as tense, tight, and irritated, with skin issues, inflammation, or heartburn.
Kaphas are more likely to feel depressed, tired, and emotional, or to struggle with weight issues or congestion.
Imbalances can be subtle and lasting. They can show up in a variety of ways that are unique to each of us, but the key to balancing them is noticing them.
3. How can I dedicate my practice to creating balance?
Arriving on your mat (and asking these questions) is half the battle won. Creating balance on the mat compels us to step out of our patterns and connect with what our body-mind is telling us it needs.
Vatas will need to slow down, warm up, build strength, and get grounded.
Pittas may need to loosen their grip, soften everything, and focus on calming and cooling out.
Kaphas need to energize, move, sweat, and express themselves.
Living Off and On the Mat
“There is nowhere that is not your yoga mat.” - Judith Hanson Lasater
I often tell my students to take what they practice on their mats and live it out in the world. The beauty of these three simple questions is that they can be applied to every situation you find yourself in, from the grocery store to the board room.
The Ayurvedic view is that we are born with a natural intelligence that will lead us to balance—if we only listen. Asking and living in these questions is our opportunity to tune up our yoga and tune into life!