When I was in Hong Kong, I remember walking past a Buddhist monk who was sitting cross-legged, meditating in one of the busiest places in the city. I was mesmerised by her. With literally millions of people hustling and bustling around us, I was almost getting whiplashed trying to keep up with all the comings and goings. Yet there she was...silent, unmoving and utterly peaceful.
That lovely monk got me thinking. Yes I feel calm and peaceful when I practice yoga and when I meditate, but did I feel calm and peaceful right then and there in the middle of a busy Hong Kong street? Er, no I did not.
It’s one thing to find a sense of tranquillity in a yoga studio, surrounded by beautiful pictures and statues, relaxing music in the background and the soothing sound of a teacher's voice guiding you through relaxation. But what happens afterwards? Do we take what we have learned in class and apply it to our life off the mat, or do we fall back into old habits like getting pissed off with traffic jams, frazzled about deadlines at work, or cranky with our partner?
As yogis, we have the opportunity every time we practice to learn something new about ourselves and the way we move, think, act and breathe. We can have some incredible ‘aha’ moments during class but the real benefits come when we can take those moments with us outside of the studio.
There are countless ways of doing this, but here are 3 really simple but really effective ways of taking yoga off your mat and into your daily life.
1. Connect With Your Breath
Breathing is the most important aspect of life yet how often do we connect with our breath outside of a yoga class?! Become curious about how you breathe in the same way you would in a yoga class; tune in to your breath several times a day, notice the quality of its natural flow, and see how it changes at different times. The quality and flow of your breath will most often reflect how you are feeling internally, so if you need to, use that awareness to deepen and steady your breath to feel more centred and calm. This is particularly awesome if you are on your way to an important meeting, interview or appointment.
2. Notice The Position Of Your Body
You don’t have to be in a yoga pose to notice the position of your body and how you naturally stand and move. Think about the way your yoga teacher guides you to become more aware of your alignment during an asana, and use that same sense of awareness as you move throughout your day. You may be quite surprised at some of your habitual ways of holding and moving your body.
Next time you’re waiting in line for coffee, instead of pulling out your iPhone to check your emails, why not tune in and notice what’s going on with the position of your body? If you favour one side as you stand, make adjustments and come back to a place of balance. If you hold unnecessary tension in your jaw, shoulders, or hands, then use the breath to soften and let go.
3. Create Space For You
One of the reasons so many people love yoga, is that it gives you an opportunity to take time out just for you. Taking that time for you sends a powerful message to your subconscious that you value yourself and your well-being -- this will do wonders for your self-esteem. And you don’t even need to set aside 90 minutes of "me-time" to reap the benefits, as even just 10 minutes will have a positive effect!
Perhaps you take a morning tea break even if you’re really busy at work, perhaps you get up 5 minutes earlier and do one yoga pose before breakfast, or perhaps you enjoy a nice hot bath instead of a quick shower when you get home. You really don’t need to wait for a yoga class to create that space for yourself.
There are so many other ways you can take your yoga off the mat and into your life. If you have any awesome ideas, feel free to share them in the comments section below so we can all benefit!
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