I don’t have as much time for my yoga mat as I wish I did. Don’t get me wrong, my mat time is precious and something that I commit to almost daily. Yet there are regularly days when I wish I could get on my mat for a good hour and a half and I end up lucky just to have 30 minutes. So what I’ve started to do is realize how I’m practicing my yoga even when my mat and I are nowhere near each other.
1. Living truth. Almost daily we’re faced with easy-outs and ways to be slightly dishonest, but even these white lies are harmful to our psyche—and our yoga. Remember, of course, to be thoughtful and sensitive to the feelings of others because sometimes saying absolutely nothing is just as honest—and healthier—than saying something at all. Still, as often as you can try to speak the truth with love.
2. Living faith. Yoga physically teaches me to have faith in myself and things that I can’t see. I have to really believe I can physically get into a demanding pose in order to be successful, and meditation teaches me to feel energy in a way that I can’t tangibly express. This carries over to life off of my mat. Belief in things like fate, God, life after death—whatever you choose—sometimes helps us get through and enjoy our present moments more. So have a little faith.
3. Confidence rather than ego. Having an ego in your physical yoga practice is one sure way to have a downfall. Getting overly cocky on your mat can lead to injury, and having an aggressive ego in life leads to isolation. On the other hand, my yoga mat time has helped me learn to be confident—and that leads to success.
4. Just breathe. Sometimes all we can do is breathe. When I’m stuck in traffic, I focus on my breath. When I get stressed out dealing with insurance and bills, I breathe. When I’m on my mat and I can’t wait to get out of a challenging posture, I hold it for one more breath. Even if you can’t get on your mat because of a packed schedule, practice your breathing techniques. Then when you do hop on your mat, it’ll become second nature and your practice will be even better.
5. Be present with others. The next time you have a conversation, take time to listen, really listen, to what they’re saying rather then thinking about what you’re going to say next. Let their words connect, and you’ll also find your connections to others grow. This is real yoga—no mat required.
6. Be kind. Nastiness and harsh words come way too easily. The old “sticks and stones can break my bones but words will never hurt me” is the most untrue saying. Words hurt. Harmful words cause major problems for people, for relationships—and for real yoga.
7. Explore other forms of exercise. My husband loves to cycle. I know he gets his yoga on while on his bike. For me, time spent doing other things is often a great reminder of why I love my yoga practice, but I also have my best meditations while pushing my little girl in her stroller. Trying new things is good for you, your body, and your yoga practice.
8. Read. Sorry, I’m a huge book geek. I’ve loved to read since I learned how to. Taking the time to read about yoga, or anything else that interests you, will help you connect with other parts of yourself—and these deeper connections will enhance your yoga practice.
9. Make good choices. Do what you know to be right, even if it’s harder. We all make mistakes, but knowledgeably doing the wrong thing rarely is a good choice.
10. Give. If you teach yoga, consider a community that needs yoga but can’t afford it—like the elderly. Or share your skills in anyway that fits into your life. Maybe it’s as simple as patiently helping your child learn new things. Even smiling at someone can make their entire day, and isn’t getting in touch with our connectedness to everything around us—the divinity that flows in all—the entire point of yoga?
The physical practice of yoga is important, no arguments from me there. However, there is so much more to yoga than getting into postures. Connecting with your yoga off of your mat will enrich your practice and, more importantly, the rest of your life.