Yoga is a beautiful practice, that enriches our lives....but it isn't limited to the mat, nor should it be.
It is obvious to those who have practiced yoga for a while, that although many of us come to it through a desire to become more flexible, or even to attempt the crazy poses that we may find online...it very quickly becomes a little more... a time for you to tune out in order to tune in.
So here are a few simple ways you can begin to practice yoga off the mat....
1 - Practise Ahimsa
Ahimsa is the very first yama (values connected to our deeper emotions) and becomes the foundation for the entire practice of yoga. Ahimsa means non-harming, and there are so many ways that you can practice this in your everyday life.
First and foremost, start with yourself.
Could you be kinder, less harming to yourself? I believe it all starts with you. Harming doesn't have to be physical, it can be verbal, and emotional. How do you speak to yourself? Having a kinder, more loving verbal dialogue to yourself is the very first way you can start to introduce ahimsa into your life.
This principle can extend as far and as wide as you would like it to. You could look to extend this concept to the environment, looking at ways that you could be less harming, this could me... keeping up with the recycling, purchasing less things in non-recycled packaging....
It could be choosing to eat less meat, dairy or both.
It could be not obligating yourself to saying yes all the time if it is causing discomfort or upset to you, and hence avoiding ahisma towards yourself.
The funny thing with ahimsa, is that too much of it can actually cause it - it has the potential to be a vicious cycle, and this is something I have personally really struggled with for the past year. Being a vegan for over a year, I became fairly OTT with the notion of non-harming, which led me to one day refusing to eat until I got home (when I hadn't eaten most of the day) because I couldn't find anything in Tesco for a quick snack that wasn't in plastic, and I was adamant I didn't want to contribute to the masses of plastic waste on the planet! What can I say, I have a very all or nothing personality...
So my point is, focussing so hard on being as non-harming as humanly possible to everyone else, can in fact cause a lot of harming to yourself, so it's important I believe, when considering ahimsa, to continue to ask yourself.... How can I be less harmful, how can I invite more ahimsa, without inviting harm towards myself.
2 - Know When To Switch Off
Connection is everything, and it is something we are lacking. Yoga philosophy describes us as all being interconnected, all part of the same, but we tend to seperate ourselves with technology that is meant to connect us - oh the irony. Soooo... see if you can be more aware of when and how you use this, to stay connected to the people around you, and to allow true connection to form. If you find yourself at the dinner table, leave the phone in your bag, if someone sits next to you on the bus...say hi. It's amazing what you can learn from other people when you are open to at least smile. It doesn't mean dumping everything online, but you can be more aware of when and when not to disconnect so you can make real connections in the real world. AND you never know what others are going through, you saying a nice welcoming hello to that lady on the bus might not mean much to you, but it could have the potential to turn her whole day around.
3 - Give More Think Less
I've been trying to give more, and to be more conscious about giving. Surely it should be a natural instinct? But I find myself sometimes through fear of lack, not giving as much as I could, so I have been trying to be more conscious of this for the past year. A great example is homelessness - it's a big issue, it's a tradegy. The amount of times we can pass people on the street, and I would often think to myself, I don't have enough...WOAH. Regardless, my not enough could be their abundance, and I realised how silly it must sound, mid-shopping around town. There is always enough. You can give more. Living in a sense of lack will attract more of the same. Challenge yourself to give more and notice how freeing and good it feels to know you are helping someone else. Also, giving can be with your money, but also time, knowledge, there are so many ways to give.
4 - PAUSE
Use the awareness that you create during your practice on the mat, to help you through the tough stuff off of the mat. Difficult conversations, disagreements, stuff will arise.... we cannot control these things, but we can choose how we react, and we can choose how we allow something to affect our energy. Pausing, bringing awareness, having time to be objective will help you during those times.
5 - Look Around
Just as the breath and the postures bring you into the present during your yoga class, look around and be present in life off of the mat. Look up, look around, look down. Listen, smell, feel - be all there baby!
You will see things you never noticed before, and it will leave you with a skip in your step - I promise.
So there you are, 5 ways for you to practice yoga off of the mat, to feel vibrant all day long, because yoga is a practice for life, a way of life, that could never be restricted to 60 mins on the mat.