When I get onto my yoga mat, it’s a time for me to be present, to move through different postures with complete awareness, to control my breathing and to release tension. It’s my special time to check in with my body and mind and to move and breathe through whatever is going on. As i have been practising for a while now, it’s becoming easier to get into the ‘zone’ when I’m on my mat.
Yoga off the mat
I remember the first time my yoga teacher told me to take my yoga practise off of the mat with me, and into my day. Whilst it was becoming easier for me to be conscious on my mat, often when I stepped off my mat my ‘monkey mind’ would run the show again. My body would revert back to it’s habitual ways of carrying itself around my day.
Every movement is an asana
I then realised that the practice doesn’t stop. Each movement is an asana. For the rest of the day after our practise, the way we sit, stand, move and carry our bodies is leaving in imprint on the body, just like the yoga class did. If you go to a beautiful heart opening class in the morning, but spend the rest of the day with hunched shoulders and a closed chest, all of that hard work is lost. But if you continue to carry your practice into your day, standing tall with an open heart, your daily life becomes an extension of your practice. You continue to heal the body of old habits when you are off the mat.
Breathe with awareness
It’s the same with breathing. The breath is the anchor in every yoga practice, but how often throughout the day are you aware of your breath? It’s hard to be aware of the breath all of the time, but if you can check in with yourself just a few times throughout the day and breathe consciously as you go about your activities, you will rekindle that presence and connection you found with yourself in your yoga practice. You can bring some peace into times of hecticness, when you are commuting with crowds of people, busy at work, or trying to fall asleep.
Awareness of the mind
Yoga off the mat can also help you to face the demons of your mind. When we practice yoga and meditation more often, we begin to notice what thoughts involuntarily pop into our heads. Rather than being the thoughts, we are taught to be aware of the thoughts. For a long time, I associated myself with my mind. I thought I was my mind. This is only partly true. We have a mind, we have a body, but we are something beyond that. The mind is a wonderful tool. It is constantly assessing our environment, making judgments, creating a picture of how things ‘are’, making sure we are safe. But the mind can never see the truth and it’s perceptions can only be based on the information it has processed before (past experiences). The our true selves and the truth is a much deeper understanding that comes from a place of non-judgment. When you realise this, and become aware of the ways in which your mind keeps you in chains (and this isn’t to say we are against the mind.. its just it can only see things from a limited perspective) life becomes a little easier. When we take our practice off the mat, we become aware of our thoughts and reactions to situations, about ourselves and others and realise they are a learned response. This is when the real work starts because if there is any perception that is not serving you and helping you to live a happy and peaceful life, you can change it. But first you need awareness.
And this is where a yoga practice on the mat can help!
Love to you all,
Beth Hartig, Hartig Yoga