As a yoga instructor and an active yogi, I always get asked why I do yoga. The physical benefits? A great workout? To join a community? My answer throughout the years has changed. In the beginning it was all about the physical aspect. Slowly it changed into the physical and mental aspect. How I felt afterwards, the easiness of my mind and body. However in the last year or so, I have shifted my “why” to embracing what yoga has taught me off of my mat. This simple list will help you to start shifting your practice off of your mat in small actions and thought processes.
1. You create your life.
“YOU create the life you want to live”. You have the power to control how you perceive circumstances in your life. What you put out grows. You are the one that decides if you are happy or negative. This is taught to us time and time again while we stand on our mats flowing through different asanas. Instructors repeat the mantra to you, and explain that what you put out there grows. You have to listen to your body, your mind on your mat to know when you have gone too far, or can push a little more. So take that mindset off of your mat, listen to your body what you need in that moment and start creating the life that YOU want to live.
2. Conscious Breathing
Yes of course everyone needs to breathe in order to live. However, how often in your daily routine do you consciously breathe? Take a minute right now, close your eyes and with purpose breathe in and out through your nose for 3 deep breaths. How did you feel afterwards? Refreshed? Calm? Collected? Breath is used on the mat to create heat within the body as well as a release to leave all your worries and cares in the past, and bring you to the present moment. Off of your mat this is a great tool to just take a moment to yourself and comeback to who you want to be. When you can slow your life down and remember to breathe life becomes clearer. This is why our instructors remind us throughout class to come to our yogic breath and concentrate on deep inhales and exhales, and one of the big reasons we feel so great after a class!
3. Healthy Eating
Healthy eating and yogis go hand in hand. When people spend hours each week on their mat turning inwards, focusing on themselves, naturally people start to take that into their lives off of the mat. By turning inward and understanding what your body is craving, you can practice yoga off of your mat while you eat. It is very important that you remember to be conscious and stay present while eating to avoid over indulging (although sometimes that piece of cake is just too tempting). By combining Conscious breathing and healthy eating we find that we can be more satisfied with healthier choices.
Laugh more. Enough said. I make it a habit on my mat and off of my mat to laugh as much as possible. When people in my classes are too serious when trying a new posture I try to remind them that it can be fun and exciting. Yoga doesn’t have to be so serious. If you fall, laugh a little. This is the easiest way of taking yoga off of your mat. By laughing, stay in the present moment and enjoy the life you have created for yourself. Laugh, and laugh often. It will help keep you present, grounded and happy!
Jiddu Krishnamurti states that “the ability to observe without evaluating is the highest form of intelligence”. Yoga teaches us that in order to stop judging others we must first stop judging ourselves. I find in class people look around watching what others are doing. Some are looking to see correct alignment, while others are comparing themselves to one another. This is a habit that we have done throughout our lives, comparing outfits, jobs, friends, etc. with others. Through non-judgment on your mat you can slowly begin to take this concept into the rest of your life. When you find yourself judging someone for their actions, their outfit choices, their lifestyle, take a deep breath. It is time to realize that everyone is unique including you and to be okay with that. Some days are better than others. Sometimes we are more understanding of others and ourselves and other days we have to be more conscious. If you can learn to incorporate non-judgment in your everyday life and to stop judging yourself, then you will begin to see the change that this can bring.
6. Self love
Self love is one of the most important things to bring with you off of your mat. On your mat, do your best to turn inward. Find out who you are, and for the duration of the class be a little selfish and think only of what you want and need in that moment. Self love is similar to non-judgment; you need to fully love yourself before you can give yourself to others. Self love is more than just loving the body you are in. It's about looking inside and understanding your morals, your wants, desires and loving yourself for those traits and then sticking to them in the midst of harder times. Knowing this can help you to create your life and decide what it is you truly want.
Part of being a yogi is being a part of a community. In class we tend to breathe together, move together and be in sync with one another. At my yoga studio I feel that there is a sense of community. When I walk in, there are people chatting in the lounge area, talking with teachers and each other alike. Off of your yoga mat, I encourage everyone to find their role in their own community. Whether it is choosing local goods from the grocery store, joining a CSA (community supported agriculture) or buying more eco-friendly items that will help your community thrive. By being a part of a community that you enjoy and that you help to support, you will find a support system, and like minded people that can help you thrive and create your life.
A great tool that I have learned throughout my yoga career is to write things down that inspire you. This may not be done directly on your mat, though it could be. On my mat my mind tends to wander, I lose my present thoughts to previous or future events. If inspiration strikes while I am in class, as soon as I am done I will go and write it down. If it inspired you in that moment, chances are it will continue to inspire you. Journaling can be a lot more too! Whether is keeping a daily journal to keep track of your thoughts, or a notebook that you can keep inspirational words in. This tool can help to keep you on track with your goals, aspirations and your direction, on and off of your mat.
Yoga helps to teach us how to “fail, fail again and fail better” (Sam Beckett). Each time we try something new for the first time, more times than not we struggle. We fail. The more we try to force ourselves to be great at the posture, or activity, we fail again. However the more you try, are patient with yourself, love yourself and stop judging yourself you fail better. Failing is not a negative term in my mind. As a wise man once told me “if you aren’t falling you aren’t trying”. Therefore in every task off of your mat, away from the asanas, if you don’t fall at least once, you aren’t trying hard enough. So pick yourself back up and “fail, fail again, and fail better”.
Take your savasana off of your mat. Savasana is the last posture in a yoga practice, meant to seal together all of the hard work you have done for yourself. It is a moment of silence where you can be still, calm your mind and breathe. A lot of days when you are too busy to practice, make sure to set aside some time for a savasana of your choosing. This can be some quiet time, a time for meditation, or just a quick break from technology. In all things, remember to set aside time for yourself. To be alone. To focus on what really matters.
The Success of Yoga does not lie in the ability to perform postures but in how it positively changes the way we live our life and our relationships.
Amy Vermillion completed her yoga teacher training in the summer of 2013 and currently teaches yoga at CorePower Yoga in Fort Collins, CO. At her yoga studio she focuses on health and wellness in all of her classes and recently became a part of their Wellness Cleanse team! When Amy is not teaching yoga you can find her hiking, biking, camping, fishing or anything outside.