5 Ways to Practice Yoga Off the Mat
So many yogis (myself included), spend countless hours crunched behind a desk, just waiting to roll out a yoga mat and findone precious hour relief and revitalization. The good news? Yoga is not just something that we physically “do” to improve the body. It is a lifestyle that unifies the mind, body and spirit through breath, balance, attitude, awareness, observance, dedication, devotion, control and union. This means we can practice just as dynamically from our desks as we do in the studio.
In the Yoga Sutras, Patanjali described the Eight Limbs of Yoga, which encompass all the practices necessary for achieving health, harmony and happiness in life. The Eight Limbs of Yoga Are: Yama, Niyama, Asana, Pranayama, Pratyahara, Dharana, Dhyana, and Samadhi.
Lucky for us, the yamas are ideal for cultivating a “9 to 5" yoga practice.
The yamas are generally understood as guidelines for how we speak, act and socialize with others. These five guidelines are:
- Ahimsa (non-violence),
- Satya (truthfulness),
- Asteya (non-stealing),
- Brahmacharya (celibacy) and
- Aparigraha (non-covetousness)
Practice ahimsa at work by recognizing the power of your words. Words have a life force of their own, and sometimes live on within the person to whom they were directed for hours, days or years. Make a point of speaking with good intention. Words spoken with good intention will resonate within the listener in a positive way, taking root and effecting positive change.
Practice satya, or truthfulness, in two ways. First, just be honest. Before you speak, ask yourself three questions: (1) am I telling the truth?; (2) is it necessary?; and (3) will my words cause harm to another? You may find yourself speaking less, but with greater courage, power and clarity. Second, study your own thoughts. The lies we tell others often grow out of the lies we tell ourselves. One way to practice self study is by taking a personal account of your insecurities. Are you tremendously concerned with what others think of you? Insecurity often causes us to deny our true nature and lose sight of the truth of reality. When you adopt satya as a way of life, you will speak and live genuinely and with authenticity.
One of my most authentic and dynamic teachers, Christian Valeriani, often talks about the practice of asteya. His lesson moves beyond the physical idea of material theft to what we can’t see–time. If you are late, you are stealing someone else’s time. If you are dedicating more time to status updates than you are to work related projects, you are stealing your employer’s time. Practicing asteya at the office is extremely challenging on slow days, when assignments are light and downtime is plentiful. In those moments, try to invite asteya into your life by being present, respecting the time and energy of others and working towards collaboration rather than competition.
The strictest definition of brahmacharya is a vow of celibacy, the refraining from all sexual activity in thoughts, words and actions. Many yogis, however, apply a broad definition and choose to honor the law of intention and desire. Deepak Chopra explains that intention and desire are inherent in every action and, when channeled, provide the mechanics for true fulfillment. At work, we can put intention and desire into effect by refusing to allow obstacles to destroy our power and potential. Be mindful that obstacles can be physical and emotional. To explore your full potential, you must overcome challenging relationships in addition to your own hangups.
When pondering how to practice apigraha in my daily life, I often mediate on the words of B.K.S. Iyengar in Light on Yoga:
By the observance of aparigraha, the yogi makes his life as simple as possible and trains his mind not to feel the loss or the lack of anything. Then everything he really needs will come to him by itself at the proper time.
How does this principle translate into office life? It teaches us to prioritize how we spend our time and energy. Rather than holding onto workplace “wins” and “losses”, we can focus on creativity, curiosity and new experiences. We can come to enjoy the process just as much–or maybe more than–the payoff. If we want to make space for growth, we need to approach each day with novelty and presence.