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How to Take Yoga Off the Mat

by Amy Collins

Yoga has this ability to make us feel strong, centered, calm, determined, still, and relaxed. All in the space of one class. And that’s because yoga is about more than just the shapes we make with our bodies. It’s about breathing and connecting into the moment. It’s about challenging yourself and about being compassionate towards yourself at the same time. Because it’s all of these things rolled into one, we learn these skills on our mat and then have them on hand when we need them off the mat. Here are just some of the ways you can take your practice and skills off your yoga mat to help you life a more easeful life.

Breath is one of the most important parts of our yoga practice. It allows us to connect into our own internal, physical world, it helps us to calm the body but also helps to energise when we need it. And it’s something that is so easily tuned into off the mat as well. When you’re feeling stressed or disconnected take a moment to close your eyes. Sit and watch your breathing. Watch the breath flow in and watch it flow out. Try to lengthen the breath to encourage your body to slow down. Not only will this calm you down but it will land you back in the physical space and the present moment.

Mindfulness is simply the act of being present in the moment. Allowing your mind to be occupied by what is right here, what you can feel, smell, taste, what your breathing is doing, and noticing how your thoughts are moving. It’s a huge part of our practice. It can sometimes be easier when we have the movements and shapes to focus on and are being guided by the teacher, but again it’s something we can practice anywhere at anytime. It can help us better understand ourselves and our reactions. It can also help us come back and enjoy and experience the moment that we’re in. This can be so helpful not just for our yoga practice on the mat but for our relationships, our contentment, and even productivity.

There is something so beautiful about savasana. It is forced rest. Forced time where all we have to do is relax. It’s rare that we give ourselves moments like that day to day when not in the yoga room. You can take this idea with you into day to day life and notice that even five minutes of deliberate rest can be incredible energising. But also, it shows us the value of taking time to ourselves. Set aside an hour or so here and there in your week to do something that makes you feel calm, restful, and re-energises you for the week.

We’ve all been in a pose where we’ve been at the end of our strength and stamina and thought that we didn’t have anything left. But we stayed. Yoga has this ability to push us and to build will power and mental strength not just physical strength. This translates off the mat, long before we even realise it. All of a sudden you have a little more self-belief, you trust that you’re capable of more than you once did. But once you embrace this and realise it, you’re incredibly powerful.

Another skill that we learn on the mat it kindness. First kindness and compassion to ourselves and our bodies, but to others as well. One of the main teachings of yoga is Ahimsa, which is the idea of non-violence to all living beings. While some of the yogis take this to very extreme levels, it can be a great start to simply be mindful of the kinds of thoughts you have about yourself and others and when you notice harmful thoughts arise, find kinder more helpful ways to approach things. For example if you’re critiquing the way your body looks or how it’s not capable right now of doing something you want it to, can you switch that to notice and appreciate all it can do.