My husband practices yoga, but he doesn't realize it. While on our honeymoon in Bali, I dragged my husband to a yoga class, and let's just say it wasn't his cup of tea (he spent the entire second half of class in child's pose). That was four years ago. And, he hasn't stepped foot on a mat since. Though I have made many brave attempts to try to persuade him of the benefits of practicing yoga, it appears my powers of persuasion cannot penetrate his anti-yoga shield.
But, then it hit me – he already practices yoga in his daily life, even if he doesn't practice asana in class. My husband is an avid "barefoot" runner, a raw food vegan, co-founder of an organic food company, an organic food blogger and even a writer for MindBodyGreen. But beyond this, he lives his life according to the yamas and niyamas of Patanjali's eight-limbed path of yoga, without having ever heard those terms or the name Patanjali before.
The truth is, yoga isn't just about flowing through a series of poses, twisting yourself up like a pretzel, going upside down and sweating your butt off (although that part can be super fun and highly beneficial both physically and mentally in its own right). Yoga is also about how you live your life in all contexts.
Inspired by my husband's lifestyle, below are ten ways to live a yogic life off the yoga mat, whether or not you practice asana on it.
1. Be honest with others. Speaking openly and honestly, and always from the heart, is truly a virtue. Speak the truth - no lies (even the littlest white lies can taint your integrity), no exaggerations for dramatic effect (we've all done it), no purposeful omissions.
2. Be honest with yourself. Sometimes the person we are least honest with is ourselves. Try to look at yourself and your actions (the good and the bad) from a detached, objective, third person perspective. Then, go ahead and give yourself a pat on the back or a kick in the butt, if you deserve it.
3. Be true to who you are. Get to know yourself and what you believe in, and don't be afraid to stand up for your beliefs. After all, if you don't stand for something, you may fall for anything (both Alexander Hamilton and Malcolm X once said something along those lines).
4. Be kind to your body. Make sure you feed your body clean, whole, healthy foods. And listen to your body, and give it what it needs (more yoga? a good restorative class? a warm bath? a nap?). Your body really should be your temple!
5. Don't hurt the people you love or even the people you hate. First, don't get into bar fights, that's just a given. Beyond that, try not to hurt others in other ways – with harmful words or actions (or lack of certain words or actions), idle gossip or even negative thoughts. And this applies to everyone – those you love, perfect strangers and even your enemies.
6. Don't take something that belongs to someone else. Whether it's a promotion, acclaim, credit for a job well done, a compliment, a great opportunity, money on the sidewalk, whatever it is – don't take anything that doesn't belong to you.
7. Offer help to others in need without expecting anything in return. If you are in a position to lend someone a hand, do it, period. It's good karma. And one day you may need help yourself.
8. Be happy with what you have. Don't make wish lists. Count your blessings instead.
9. Don't try to keep up with the Joneses. This one goes hand-in-hand with number eight. Comparing yourself and your life to others is a dead-end road that will lead you to nowhere but unhappiness. Be content with who you are and how you live your life.
10. Keep an open mind. Try to maintain a flexible mind (regardless of how flexible you are in your body). Don't be too quick too judge, try new things, and roll with life's punches.
My husband, the non-yogi, is pretty good at doing all of the above. I, the yoga fanatic, can only hope to one day fully embody these ideals.
It's important to keep in mind that the practice of yoga doesn't begin and end on the yoga mat. You may be able to rock a five-minute handstand, but can you maintain that same balance in other aspects of your life? And, even if you don't practice asana (today, often or ever), you can still be a yogi and practice yoga in life. In fact, you may already practice it without even realizing it.