How to take your Yoga off your mat

November 26, 2012 § Leave a comment

The lessons we learn on our yoga mats are far more than a routine set of physical postures and breathing techniques. These lessons teach us: about ourselves, how to treat ourselves, how to respond in new ways to that which confronts us, and how to be more present. In effect, these lessons teach us how to live our lives. All that we learn on the mat in yoga class can be infiltrated into every corner of our lives, thereby opening ourselves up to increased health and happiness on a day-to-day basis.

Here are a few ways to live your yoga off your mat:

  • Embrace self-acceptance
  • Just be – observe the beauty in all things
  • Stop struggling and practice acceptance – accept each moment as it is
  • Keep moving through it and remember it will pass
  • Wherever you go offer the gift of a smile, compliment, or encouraging word
  • Accept everything you receive with gratitude
  • Where possible be of service to others…
  • …but not at a disservice to yourself
  • Express your unique talents and share them with others
  • Practice responsible decision making, contemplating (and owning) the consequences of your choices
  • Eat consciously
  • Enjoy every moment that life has to offer (and let go of the outcome)
  • Let go of the need to control – become content with uncertainty, be open to possibilities, and cultivate curiosity
  • Be realistic about the time you have available and rather do less with more zest
  • Know that you’re allowed to say “no” – look after yourself first
  • Practice patience with yourself and others
  • Practice love and kindness to yourself and others
  • Say it with love
  • If you need it, ask for help
  • When you’re struggling to balance, put one foot down
  • Practice courage
  • Remember to breathe

Breath: the elixir of life

September 5, 2012 § Leave a comment

Breath is life, offering every cell of our bodies the very elixir it needs, not only to survive, but to thrive. More than that, breath immediately reflects the life we are living. If we can deepen our awareness of that breath and begin to read its messages, we give ourselves the opportunity to create a healthier, happier life.

This was highlighted for me recently during two consecutive yoga practices. Day one’s practice was a tough session, but no matter the effort I exerted, my breath remained slow, steady, fluid, and relaxed – this was a stress-free and relaxed non-working day. The following day’s yoga yielded a totally different breathing pattern: rapid and shallow. No surprises that this was the beginning of the day on a Monday morning, a day I was off to do work I wasn’t particularly enthused about; this was a day my stress levels had raised.

How quickly and noticeably that (considerably low-level) mental stress had affected my physical body. Our ever-helpful bodies, unfortunately, do not respond along a spectrum, but rather have an all or nothing approach to stress, as if all stress was the equivalent to that of being chased by a tiger. The trouble is, our tiger is no longer a tiger but a queue at the supermarket, or an early morning, or a traffic jam, or a deadline. The body’s response to stress, however, places immense stress on the body.

So, back to our elixir of life, the breath: not only can it give us the signals to indicate where we’re at mentally, but it also becomes the tool with which we can help undo some of that mental reaction. There is nothing more calming, no better sedative than that very breath you breathe. A few minutes of deep, full, mindful belly breathing is just what the doctor should be ordering to trick the mind back into a state of no worry. Pause, deep breath into the belly, slowly exhale and allow relaxation to become you.

Making Time

August 11, 2012 § Leave a comment

We live in a society where time is transformed into a very tangible, living thing – we can “borrow time”, “steal time”, “lose time”, and even “save time”. If we are able to in fact manipulate time in all these many and varied ways, we must also be able to, indeed, “make time.”

I am currently discovering how to “make time” in my own life for the things that are important to me. This is a learning process or, rather, an “unlearning” of the examples that were set for me by my parents, my teachers, my colleagues, and the very society I live in. I have been taught inadvertently that those very things that fill me up should be placed last on my “to-do” list, with responsibilities and attending to the needs of others listed as priorities. Is it any wonder, then, that I frequently find myself feeling unsatisfied and, what I like to call, “soul tired”?

The reality is, the items at the end of the “to-do” list seldom get ticked off. My solution: I am playing around with the order of my daily “to-dos”, placing some of the activities that leave me feeling great (physically, emotionally, mentally or spiritually) at the start of the day – this way, not only do I have the satisfaction of getting them done (at last), but I have the added bonus of feeling fulfilled from the get go.

Something else I’ve started is setting a metaphorical timer on my list items of so-called responsibility ensuring I don’t reach the end of my day only to find that these tasks have swallowed up my time and my energy.

I am enjoying uncovering the malleability of time, learning to sculpt my days into shapes that best honour my personal needs, allowing me to “make time” for that which fuels and recharges me, and therefore leaves me better able to help those around me, and find success in my responsibilities.

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