Taking Your Practice Off the Mat

Don’t you just love that feeling after class?  Everything feels so open in the hips and shoulders.  You are sure there cannot possibly be one single toxin left in your body as you go to grab your now 5 lb. mat.  Your muscles have this heavy, relaxed feeling and no matter how the class itself went you are full of gratitude for taking this bit of time with yourself.

You smile at the teacher as you float back to the locker room, exchange some supportive words with your fellow classmates or talk about how easy it felt today, or how incredibly hard it felt today, and with a smile grab a coconut water on the way out the studio doors.  Life is good.

And then, for no particular reason at all, there comes a point in the next couple of hours or so when the real world comes crashing in.  Your yoga bubble of serenity, gratitude and peace has officially burst.  No matter what or who the culprit is you are now stressed beyond belief, anxious beyond comprehension, or deeply depressed about one thing or another.  You feel you would do anything to get your post yoga glow back, but running back to the studio for the next class is not possible.  It’s time for other things.  It’s time to practice your yoga off of the mat.

Does this mean you suddenly bust out a Standing Head to Knee Pose or drop into Toe Stand?  Well, no.  That would not only be weird in some, if not most, situations, but also kind of dangerous.  But you can take the skills learned during the yoga class and apply it to your life outside of the studio doors to cultivate the peace of the body and mind so that it is present in your every interaction.  This includes but is not limited to:

  1. Breathing – How many times have you heard that yoga is all about breath?  When you are taking class you are certainly not basking in comfort. You are sweaty, at times in some slight pain or discomfort, and your heart rate is high.  But there comes a point in everyone’s practice where they suddenly connect with the breath.  You begin to notice when it changes – when it becomes more rapid or starts to slow down.  Or if you are suddenly starting to take air in through the mouth when the instructor is urging you to take the breath through the nose.  It is this practice of noticing the breath moving through the body that you can take with you throughout the day.  Breathing throughout situations that might be uncomfortable or downright stressful is an incredible tool.  It connects you to the present moment, reminds you of where your body is in space at the time, and grounds your thinking no matter what may be taking place outside of you or in your mind.  When you connect to the breath you are calmer, more assured, and less likely to fly off the handle.
  2. Balance – Do you always fall out of the postures where you are on one leg?  This is certainly something I struggle with in class.  Sometimes I have it and sometimes I don’t.  But as you strive for balance in these postures you start to cultivate balance in your life as well.  You may have a lot going on between family, work, and your assortment of commitments to yourself and others, but there is a way to not feel pulled in so many directions you start to feel stressed or anxious.  As you practice you start to realize what is important to you and the things that don’t serve you anymore begin to fall away.
  3. Focus – Learning to focus on just one thing at a time is something we strive for during a yoga class.  Is the leg bent or straight?  Where are my hips in proportion to my body?  Can I sit a little bit lower in the posture?  The asanas give us something to focus on so that everything else is wiped away.  It’s just about that moment and what you can achieve within it.  With this focus you are gaining in the yoga classes you can now bring it outside of the studio to focus on just one thing at a time, such as, having a conversation without having to glance at the cell phone, or enjoying a walk outside without being plagued with thoughts that have nothing to do with the task at hand.
  4. Stillness – In class we are consistently told to be still in between the postures.  To not wipe the sweat, or play with the outfit, or fix the hair is actually incredibly hard for most yogis to do.  In our society we are in constant motion, flying from one thing to the next and now we are told to be still, to let it go.  But when you cultivate this skill of stillness the mind calms down, can easily find its focus, and lock into the breath.  There is no need for endless fidgeting – you are just you and that is perfect.
  5. Non-judgment – After you have been practicing for a while do you notice how you no longer really think about those around you?  Or if you do think about them it is with loving and encouraging thoughts.  There is no, “Wow, why did she wear that to class?” or, “If he flicks any more sweat on me I’m going to scream!” running through your head.  You have let all of your judgment of others go for the time being and are in the moment sharing this incredible energy with those around you.  This skill that you have learned through the yoga is one that is a true game changer.  To let go of thoughts that compare us to others or label them as one thing or another is a powerful way to move through the world.  As you treat others, so in turn you are teaching others how to treat you.  One of my favorite quotes is from Maya Angelou:  “People will forget what you said.  People will forget what you did.  But people will never forget how you made them feel.”

So next time the world gets crazy know that you don’t have to get crazy with it.  It is an opportunity to practice your yoga.  To find your breath, focus, stillness, balance, and non-judgment while you go from situation to situation.  With these skills you are set to live a life full of abundant joy and happiness casting aside doubts, fears, and anger and replacing it with love and faith.

Have you had a situation lately that made you take your practice off of the mat?

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13 thoughts on “Taking Your Practice Off the Mat

  1. I need you whispering in my ear after Yoga 🙂 Excellent post – I strive to bring my Yoga beyond the double doors. Some days, YES! Others – not so much…I’ve been a yelling fiend of late and need to step back to breath, balance, focus, be still and not judge.

    • We’re all works in progress and the more you practice the more the yoga seeps into every facet of your life. Believe me I am continually working on this! So glad you enjoyed the post!

      • I haven’t NOT enjoyed any of our posts! Someone that understands my obsession…and thinks about the things I think about. I’m happy to be back after 3 weeks off. My hips are so much more relaxed.

        And I got a Towel/Mat – Tat, Toat or Mawel! I can’t wait to try it tonight.

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