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Taking Yoga off the Mat

In my classes I often invite practitioners to take their yoga off the mat. I have had a love/hate relationship with yoga over the years…There was a time when the practice was solely about making shapes in space, strengthening the muscles, and blowing off steam. I was practicing for the physical benefits. After a while I started taking my yoga off the mat and noticed more profound changes in my mental well-being. Calm on the mat doesn't necessarily translate to calm off the mat. Here are 3 ways I try to in operate yoga into my daily life.

Breath Work
Challenging moments happen to all of us…from the mundane (the kids are screaming, you butt heads with a work colleague, someone cuts you off on the road), to the profound (you lose a loved one, you are dealing with illness, a difficult life decision presents itself). Deep breathing is a powerful tool that can help decrease stress in any situation. By using deep diaphragmatic breathing we stimulate our vagus nerve, which helps our body to relax and avoid feelings of fight or flight in stressful situations. Try it the next time you are feeling stressed. At first it might feel a bit forced, but after a while it will become a natural way to self soothe.

Practice Non-Attachment
Have you felt as if your thoughts would consume you? That you were missing out on the present moment by focusing on fears or worries in your own mind? This kind of thinking often does one a disservice. When I feel this happening to me I try to practice non attachment. I allow negative or stressful thoughts float into my mind just as easily as they floated in. A good way to detach from these thoughts is remind yourself to live in the present. Meditation techniques such as reminding yourself to breathe or using a mantra can help. “Be here now.” is one of my favorites. With practice, non-attachment will feel like second nature.

Namaste stays it all: “The Divine light in me bows to the Divine light in you.”
It has taken many years to discover the weight of namaste, but I must say that understanding it greatly increases my ability to connect with others and find happiness in my relationships daily. In every person I meet I try to recognize that they have a Divine light. Each person has an experience as vivid and complex as my own. So whether it is the guy bagging my groceries or my own daughter, I try to treat them as if I was living their reality. Maybe it’s God? Maybe it’s just the universal spirit that connects us all? Whatever it is, recognizing that makes for a better existence. If you choose love you cannot go wrong.

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