You go to a yoga class.
You feel amazing - calm, balanced and this sense of inner stillness.
It's as though you're floating.
You get home and those feelings are quickly replaced with stress and anxiety.
What if I told you there was a way to remain in that floating feeling? A way to have all those yummy benefits even when you're not physically on the mat practicing asanas (yoga poses)
Yep, that's right - you can take yoga off the mat and feel this way all the time... with practice!
1. GET COMFORTABLE BEING UNCOMFORTABLE
I say this phrase all the time to my students! Just as on the mat you are encouraged to lean in to the discomfort with kindness, compassion & non-judgment, the same can apply off the mat. Change is uncomfortable and most human's don't like it - we like to feel as though we are in control and know what will happen next. But life doesn't work like that. Things are always changing - it is in fact the only certain thing in life. So you can either resist it and make things harder for yourself/create more pain or you can lean into the discomfort, get comfortable and be kind to yourself in the process. The latter means you accept the given situation for what it is and respond from a place of calm.
2. BE PRESENT
"Yoga takes you into the present moment - the only place where life exists" - Patanjali
Being present is the essence of yoga. It is why you feel so wonderful after a yoga class - because for the majority of that hour you are fully present and aware of your mind, body and breath. Nothing else matters. Being in the moment takes practice and awareness. During asana practice or meditation, when we notice our attention has wandered, we gently bring it back to the breath or body. You can start to bring this level of awareness into your daily tasks. For example, when you're brushing your teeth focus on it fully or when you go for a walk, fully immerse yourself in your surroundings using all of your senses. We are so often stimulated by screens or are doing 10 things at once whilst moving a 100 miles an hour. Instead, take time to focus on one thing at a time, slow down and be fully present on that one thing. We also tend to spend a lot of our time living in the past or the future, yet neither of these times exist. Begin to notice when you are ruminating on the past or becoming anxious about the future and bring yourself into the present - the only moment that exists. Another way to practice being present is with your breath...
We are born breathing correctly and as we grown older we begin to breathe incorrectly. That is, we breathe shallowly into our chest, especially when we feel stressed or anxious. This increases our heart rate and cortisol levels (stress hormone) and causes us to feel more stressed or anxious so we continue to breathe shallowly - a viscous cycle! So, what we want to do is deepen our natural breath using abdominal breathing which is breathing into your tummy (rather than your chest). It is the most efficient way to breathe - it lowers cortisol levels, lowers the heart rate, lowers blood pressure, increases immunity and improves mood & energy levels. Try it now for 30 seconds. Breathe in and imagine your tummy is like a balloon and is filling with air. Breathe out and imagine the balloon is deflating as the air leaves the tummy. Do this for a few rounds with your eyes closed and notice how you feel afterwards. You can do practice abdominal breathing with me here. Regular practice of this technique will correct your breathing and keep you feeling calm and centred.
TOP TIP - if you struggle to sleep, try abdominal breathing when you're lying in bed and it will help you to drift off!
4. LISTEN TO YOUR BODY
Most of us are disconnected from our bodies. We live from the neck upwards with our bodies being something that takes us from A to B, something that we need to fill with food and drink and the thing that houses our mind. Don't get me wrong, the mind has its place, but our bodies carry so much wisdom and knowledge that we aren't tapping into. I am constantly telling my students to listen to their body during my yoga classes. What do I mean by this? Listen to what it wants and needs in that moment. Listen and start to trust it. Start to tap into your heart space, your gut, your intuition, your muscles, your tummy and all the other wonderful parts. When you were little, you were in tune with your body. You knew what you did and did not want. You knew what felt good and what did not. But years of conditioning has erased that inner knowing. And it's time to get back to your true self. So as you go through your day, stop and check in with your body. Ask yourself does this feel good? What does my body need in this moment? Where do I feel this in my body? What is my body trying to tell me?
5. PRACTICE GRATITUDE
Ahhh, gratitude. A daily practice that I love so much and if you've been following me on Instagram for a while you will have heard me mention it, a lot. The word gratitude is thrown around a lot these days. But what does it actually mean to practice gratitude? Gratitude is simply the act of feeling and being grateful or thankful. It can be as simple as saying thank you aloud for the people and things your are grateful for, writing them down in a gratitude journal or meditating on them. It's about finding what works for you. By watering the seed of gratitude in your heart you are able to live in the moment and appreciate what you have - the small wins and simple pleasures of life. By shifting your focus, you begin to find gratitude in the most unlikely of places which strengthens your ability to notice the good. It is not that 'negative' or 'bad' things won't happen. Of course they will - life is full of ups and downs. But after regular practice, rather than focusing your attention on the 'downs' for too long, you will have rewired your brain to focus on the 'ups', on the positives, on the good. Learn more about gratitude with my free gratitude guide and gratitude meditation here.
There are many more ways you can take yoga off the mat and you can learn more about them with my online membership for holistic wellbeing AKA The Wellness Space
With love & gratitude,