In this weeks’ Defy. Actualize. Enjoy.™ we answer a big life question we get asked by a lot of our readers. “When I’m on the mat I’m in such a good place but as soon as I leave the yoga studio the effects start to wear off. Is there a way I can keep practicing yoga off of the mat?”
The simple answer? Yes, but you probably already guessed it.
Below, we’ll walk you through some basic steps to help you keep your yoga practice going throughout the day, but more than that, we’ll look at ways in which you can become your yoga practice. Before that, let’s look at some common obstacles and misconceptions first.
The first thing to tackle is grasping what Yoga is. Due to its depth and breadth—not to mention, it’s long, rich history—Yoga has come to mean different things to different people. Some focus mainly on the postures and breathing exercises, others on the philosophical aspects, and yet others on its scientific underpinnings. Due to this diversity, it’s possible to feel somewhat lost or confused. Our suggestion is to approach Yoga as a way of life with an emphasis on it being a practice.
Also, keep in mind that Yoga acknowledges that there is no one-size-fits-all. Yoga offers means to adapt the different practices to best suit you. So it’s often desirable to come at it with a curious mind being aware that whatever your goals are in life, Yoga can help in some significant way. Once you understand how to actualize your practice, the positive effects will be constant and will shape your life around a framework of authenticity, positivity, and abundance.
Personalize your own life path
Another potential concern is that Yoga practice might conflict with your religion, so you might limit yourself to only performing the physical aspects of the practice. We appreciate that this can be a sensitive issue for some. But, like is mentioned in the previous paragraph, know that Yoga allows you to personalize your own path. It does not presume any particular kind of religious inclinations. You can practice Yoga as an agnostic or a practitioner of any faith. In fact, Yoga has been known to help practitioners deepen their religious practice no matter their faith. The other thing to keep in mind is that Yoga teaches us about the fundamental unity and oneness of all people as well as things. In other words, Yoga is unifying and inclusive rather than dividing and exclusive.
Let yoga take you there
Finally, some of you may be wondering whether Yoga is for you. It is important to understand that practicing yoga is for everyone. It doesn’t matter what shape, size, color or creed you are; anyone can practice. This is because yoga is a personal journey, and different for whoever decides to live their life by its teachings. Stop comparing yourself to what seems to be on trend and start looking at your own journey. Wherever it is you’re going, let yoga take you there.
Once you understand what yoga is capable of, and in turn what you are capable of, it is time to internalize your yoga practice. There are many different techniques you can actualize but we’re only going to touch on a few to get you started.
Practice Breathing Off The Mat
As a simple first step, practice your breathing off the mat throughout the day. In fact, all of us at Triumph dedicate some time each day to sit up straight, close our eyes and focus on our breathing. This, put simply, is a form of meditation and its benefits will reflect those of which you have felt inside the yoga studio as it’s based on the same yoga science. It helps you to align your conscious and subconscious self, leading to better understanding and the ability to be ‘fully present.’ So make sure to take a handful of short breaks and divert your attention to your breath throughout the day. For example, before you start or resume your work and before each meal.
An Inward Focus
Next, it is important to understand that practicing Yoga is an art of living, or more than that, a way of looking at the world through the lens of our senses. With this in mind, yoga teaches us to focus inward and take a long, deep look at ourselves. To learn how we make our decisions through our emotions, values and energy levels is a key part to living a true, authentic life, and is the foundation on which all of our yoga practice can be built.
This is not confined to the yoga studio at all, as we should always be looking inwards at ways in which we can improve, and we do this by first knowing who we are. In short, knowing who you are and pursuing things that are in alignment with your values is a huge leap forward in actualizing your yoga practice as a way of life. Towards that end, it helps a lot to set aside some time for self-reflection every day. Journaling can be a great practice in this context.
Identify Your Purpose
After you know who you are, it’s time to start identifying your purpose. I know – this seems a big leap from the yoga mat – but internalizing yoga is a way of life, and finding our purpose is important as we should strive to always pursue things that are in line with our purpose as well as our values. To summarize,
living a life of meaning and growth comes from pursuing things that are in line with both your values and your purpose, and if followed, will eventually lead to what we call ‘ultimate breakthrough.’ At this stage, you’ll no longer have to keep thinking about your practice as it will now be so internalized your practice will be who you are.
Yoga is a complete way of life, so to truly immerse oneself within its practice makes the notion of practice ending on the mat seem quite silly. What we’ve touched on above is our notion of Self Intelligence which we derive from yoga science which in turn comes from a study of ancient yoga methods and practices. It is the art of knowing your true, authentic self and living in accordance with it. For a deeper dive into Self Intelligence™ and Yoga Science, you can read our other articles here, but for now, we suggest practicing your breathing as a great first step. Remember, Yoga is the art of living – and not a sprint! Take small steps each day, and enjoy the journey. Practice your inward focus, and try to better understand your values, energy, and emotions. It is the key to a happy, fulfilled life!
So the next time you hit the yoga mat, remember this is just a small part of it. A small, important part, but still small. There is so much more out there for you to learn and so much more for you to internalize. Yoga starts and ends with you, not with the mat, or any physical space for that matter.