You know those days when the alarm goes off but gets snoozed so fast it never makes a sound? And when you finally do get out of bed, you’re hit by the fact that you’re going to be late? So you rush to drop off the kids and make it to your morning meeting only to discover that with your packed schedule there’s no way you’ll be able to go to yoga?
Or maybe you didn’t oversleep. You woke up, went through your morning routine and realized you don’t feel like putting your yoga pants on this day … you’re just not that into it.
Well, just because you can’t make it to yoga class, or simply don’t feel like doing downward dog, doesn’t mean you need to miss out on the benefits of the practice. The poses, or asanas, are only one aspect of yoga. Did you know there are seven other aspects or limbs you can do?
Studying all eight limbs of yoga is often reserved to teacher trainers or other yogis familiarizing themselves with the sutras, an ancient sanskrit text that breaks down the entire practice of yoga. But don’t think for one minute you need a translator to start reaping the rewards that the rest of the practice offers. You just need to shift your mindset from thinking of yoga as something only to be done on the mat.
4 Ways to Practice Yoga Off the Mat
At the end of class, many teachers invite their students to take the practice with them into the rest of their day. So in addition to basking in your post-practice glow, the teacher wants you to keep the yoga going even after you’ve rolled up your mat. The beauty of an off-the-mat yoga practice is you can do it anywhere and anytime — there’s no schedule to abide by!
Here are some ways you can start your off-the-mat practice today.
1. Mindful breathing. Yoga means union. A surefire way to connect to both yourself and the present moment is through the breath. Try tuning in by watching each inhale and exhale, and stay with this rhythm for a few rounds. You can close your eyes to help focus or put your hands on your belly for more awareness. The intention is to slow down your thoughts to become more present with where you are.
2. Volunteering. When you offer your service to someone else without any expectation of return, you are practicing karma yoga. You can go big with this, like signing up with a nonprofit organization to donate your time regularly. Or you can keep it simple and pitch in at the school fair,or help set up your neighbor’s new flat screen TV. It’s about providing help with no strings attached. The reward is in the act of helping.
3. Speak with right intention. To tell the truth goes beyond not lying; it’s putting purpose behind everything you say. So rather than blurting out whatever comes to mind, consider the impact your words can have. Ask yourself why you are going to say something, and remember that your opinions are not the truth. They are only your perspective. Keep an observer’s mindset, and stop gossiping. Try to add value to the conversation.
4. Eat vegetarian. For many yogis, a vegetarian lifestyle is non-negotiable as it ties into the yoga sutra of ahimsa, or non-violence. And while going cold turkey (or no turkey!) may be too shocking for your system, you could slowly make the switch by cutting out one meat meal a week, and replacing it with a plant-based recipe. In time, if you continue to add in more veggie deliciousness to your diet, you may find that your cravings for meat subside completely.
So what do you think of off-the-mat yoga? Which one of these practices are you inspired to start today? —Elysha