How to Use Your Yoga off the Mat

20-Nov-2012 Contributed by: Lauren Rose Burke

Yoga has become a fitness buzzword; now synonymous with gym goers seeking a slim physique, toned arms or that need a ‘day off from my weight routine’. Unfortunately, what becomes lost is the true meaning of yoga: the union between the mind, body and spirit. The physical practice is just one element of yoga, and it can become easy to get swept up in the fitness yoga revolution that promises a Jennifer Aniston body. Taking time to step back from the physical asanas of your practice and connect to your yoga practice on a deeper level means that yoga is not longer just a Wednesday night 5.15-6.15pm activity at your local gym, but an experience which is infused throughout your entire day, informing your thoughts and behaviour.

Breathe through stressful situations

Unfortunately stress is part of everyday life: time stress, financial stress, work stress, family stress – it can be completely overwhelming! Yoga teaches of the importance of pranayama or controlling our breathing, and way in which our actions and movements should be linked with our breath. Using these exercises outside of the yoga studio can help to calm our nerves and gain perspective when stressful situations occur in our lives. Try slowing down your breath next time you are stuck in traffic or forget to pick up something from the grocery store for dinner, and see how it helps your anxiety levels to subside.

Keep working at it

Think back to your first yoga class. Do you remember looking at a lithe, flexible yogi who effortlessly whipped up into Adho Mukha Vrksasana or Bakasana without so much as a hesitation thinking to yourself “I will never be able to do that!”? Take time to reflect on how far you have come! Can you sink deeper into Virabhadrasana I? Can you balance for longer in Vrksasana? These are all huge achievements that have taken time and considerable effort on your part and are only possible through dedication! Remember this next time you feel like giving up, and kindly remind yourself of how good it feels to keep trying, recognizing your hard work and accomplishments.

Connect with yourself

Yoga encourages a deep, personal union, and self-observance is a large part of that connection. By practicing dharana and bringing a consciousness and concentration to our actions, we are able to develop a heightened awareness of our own being. This is further extended in the practice of dhyana or mediation, which involves taking time out to calm the mind, removing intrusive thoughts and being still with the breath. These are wonderful tools to take with you outside of the yoga studio, and to put into play in our everyday lives, allowing us to be present and aware of our surroundings and to take account of our thoughts during the day.

Don’t just see yoga as a job that must be ticked off, or a way to stretch after your spin class the day before – yoga is a deep, spiritual union that offers you the chance to be lifted in all aspects of your life. Take your yoga ‘off the mat’ and into your everyday to reap the benefits of dedicated practice.

Lauren Rose Burke is a writer, yogini and passionate health foodie from Sydney who spends her days drinking tea and dreaming of living in a house made of almonds and goji berries with a stream of coconut water outside…

Twitter: @LaurenRoseBurke
Instagram: @laurenroseburke

Zen, Yoga, Spirituality, Exercise, Meditation, Health, Positivity
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