Tools For Taking Yoga Off The Mat
by Ahlia Hoffman | July 19, 2016 7:48 pm
Yoga as a physical practice has so many benefits: physical, mental, and emotional, as well as energetic and spiritual. Other benefits of yoga include relieving stress, developing body and breath awareness, detoxification, building strength and cultivating balance. What we practice on the four corners of the yoga mat can contribute to the way we live our lives from moment to moment. Here are some tools that translate your yoga practice off of the mat.
Here are some tools that translate your yoga practice off of the mat:
- Breathe deeply and breathe well.
Breathing deeply helps to circulate oxygenated blood throughout your body to nourish and revitalize you. It’s normal to take slow deep breaths during a yoga class in the studio. In the same regard, we benefit from taking deep breaths throughout the day. When I’m feeling anxious about working on a deadline or having a particularly stressful day I know I can rely on slowing my breath to help refocus my energy and attention back to the task at hand, I immediately feel calm and re-centered. This is one of the most simple and beneficial ways I practice yoga off the mat.
- Focus on the present moment.
This is a concept that is spoken of regularly but took me years to fully grasp. The way I came to understand what present in the moment means is by focusing on my senses and sensations, what exactly is happening in this moment both inside and outside of my body? Take regular breaks through out the day to check in. When we observe our energy, notice if the body is asking for something (food, water, a restroom break, a hug), and connect to the center of our being in the moment, we are practicing yoga. I also notice that this practice brings a sense of gratitude as I witness the blessings in each moment.
- Set intentions and practice gratitude.
Perhaps your favorite instructor suggests setting an intention or dedication when you start a yoga class. A suggestion for taking yoga off the mat and into your day is to set an intention each morning before beginning the day. Dedicate your energy towards manifesting that which your heart desires. Focus on calling into your life that which serves your highest and best. When I realized the frequency I emit is the frequency I attract, I started becoming more aware of my energy, thoughts, and behavior. Taking yoga off the mat for me includes practicing gratitude everyday. Find yourself feeling grateful for the health and support of friends, family, and community around you. I give thanks everyday for my passion for teaching and practicing yoga, the health of my body, mind, and emotional state, and for Mother Earth and nature. I often write down what it is I’m grateful for as a reminder for when I need extra inspiration.
- Look inside for answers.
Seeking help from others can be beneficial, especially in feeling the support of those who are caring. Turning inwards, however, will provide you with insight as we all have tools and answers within us. Regardless of other people around us in the yoga room, we are each on our own mats. In the same way, we are all moving through this life in many ways together, but you’re the only one who gets to hear what’s in your mind and in your heart. Try this: Set aside 1 hour this week to do something all by yourself without distraction of music, tv, your phone or computer. Be with your thoughts. If you’re not up for sitting still and just perusing what’s going on in your mind, then take a walk (again, without music or a buddy) and focus on your breath, sensations in your body, and the beauty of your surroundings. Observe your mind, listen to your heart, and seek answers from within. Practicing yoga on your mat is a work out, but also a work IN. Taking this practice off the mat will translate to creating a tremendous amount of clarity and calm in everyday life.
- Explore sensations.
There is constant stimulation from tv, to cell-phones, computers, music, advertisements, and things to do. Another way you can take your practice off the mat is to pause throughout the day and notice the sensations in your body. Get up and stretch if you’re feeling tight somewhere. Breathe into your belly, expand through your chest and shoulders to create some space inside. If your muscles are tired from yesterday’s workout, perhaps skip the heated advanced-vinyasa class today and opt for some gentle stretching or restorative yoga. By exploring sensations we learn to listen to our bodies and take even better care of ourselves.
- Notice patterns.
We act and react in ways that are often repetitive based on our personalities and life circumstance. When I realized that I moved so quickly throughout my day, rushing from place to place and hurrying from one appointment to the next, I noticed that my fast paced life left little room for rest or relaxation. I’ve had this pattern for years. I have one speed – go. However, when I realized that this isn’t necessary nor healthy for me, I decided to take a deeper look. On my mat I’m slow, connected to my breath, I’ve been told that my practice is graceful. When I realized the discrepancy between my yoga on the mat and how I practice off the mat, I decided to make some changes and practice slowing down. I’ve worked so hard to be strong, both physically and emotionally, but hadn’t put much emphasis on being soft. When I observed these patterns I decided to do embrace my softer side with more relaxation techniques to help me slow down. When we notice patterns of behavior and make conscious changes towards balance in life we are practicing yoga off the mat.
There are many amazing benefits to be received from a regular yoga practice. Translating your work on the mat to life off of the mat can be a tremendous catalyst for positive changes in life. Make the effort to observe and witness the transformations as they occur when you breathe deeply, focus on the present moment, set intentions, practice gratitude, look inwards for answers, explore sensations, and notice thought and behavioral patterns. Most of all, enjoy the process, acknowledge all that you’ve accomplished and overcome along the way, and continuously strive to become a better version of yourself.
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