Living Your Yoga: 6 Ways To Practice Yoga Beyond The Asanas
When we hear the word yoga, most of us initially think of the physical side of the practice, the postures.
But the postures and sequences we learn in class are just one very small aspect of yoga.
Most people are first drawn to the physical practice of yoga to compliment other physical activities while helping to maintain limber bodies.
It is understood that a strong yoga practice will lead to many positive changes, including lowering blood pressure, decreasing back pain, staying lean and reducing stress.
However, to think of yoga as just stretching and postures is doing the practice and yourself a disservice.
While there is nothing wrong with wanting to stretch out and feel good physically, the real practice transcends the physical into that which we cannot see, but rather feel.
This is where the transformation lies.
“Yogas citta vritti nirodhah”
Yoga is the stilling of the fluctuations of the mind -Yoga Sutras 1.2
Asana is often the entry point to a deeper practice that is taken off your mat. Once the student becomes fully engaged with the postures and begins to open up tight places in their bodies, the union of body, mind and spirit becomes more apparent.
Once the student gets a taste of this unity, they begin to cultivate an awareness much greater than themselves, and quite often they begin seeking the deeper meaning of yoga, off the mat.
Here are 6 ways to practice yoga beyond the physical asanas.
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Pranayama, or breath control, is the foundation of all yoga practices.
Breath control can be practiced at anywhere, anytime!
It’s exceptionally beneficial in those moments that induce emotions like fear, sadness and anger. During these fight or flight responses, our sympathetic nervous system is stimulated. Deepening your breath and slowing it down will ignite the parasympathetic nervous system, which will promote relaxation and a sense of calmness.
Practice breathing directly into whatever sensations arise and watch them change, just like they do on the mat.
This may sound like an easy task, but when it comes down to really, truly feeling, many of us instinctively resist sensation or react negatively out of habit.
So rather than pushing feelings aside or trying to control them, experience and be with everything that surfaces, and allow it move through you.
As we begin to deepen our physical practice, observation of the Self in moments of discomfort proves to be a very effective tool.
Try taking a step aside, and look at yourself and your reactions without judgment and attachment to any desired outcome. Being a witness to your own actions, you will learn to better understand how to change or shift them moving forward.
Observe with compassion. This isn’t an easy task, so be easy on yourself.
4) Live authentically
Living your truth is the essence of yoga. With the union of body, mind and spirit, we are simply realizing our own truth and the abilities we all have to face our fears and move forward in a direction that speaks to our true nature.
You can do this by simply taking one small action per day that aligns with who you are on the inside. You’ll know when you’re on the right track, because it will feel effortless. Anything else will cause you to feel that pit in your stomach.
Providing self-care just as your physical body needs on the mat is just as important off the mat. Explore what it’s like to give to others, whether it’s people, organizations or nature.
The act of being in service to someone or something outside of yourself will help lift your spirits and overall elevate the psychology of your mind.
As you’ve learned on the mat, letting go of tension in tight and dark places will create freedom in your life. There is no way to avoid the inevitable tense moments in life, so start by practicing building softness around this tightness and mindfully releasing it.
Take notice of how it slowly begins to shift as you soften. That is the key.
Everything in life is a practice, so approach these practices mindfully and perhaps just one at a time.
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