The physical practice of yoga is only one tiny piece of what yoga truly means. So, how do you go beyond the physical practice? Today, I’m sharing 5 simple ways to live your yoga. What does live your yoga mean, anyways? It’s certainly a subjective phrase and open to interpretation, but I believe it means taking everything you learn and embody on your mat and carrying that with you throughout your day-to-day. When we talk about yoga, usually images of people handstanding or contorting their bodies are conjured because that’s the image of yoga mainstream media has portrayed to us. But the physical practice of yoga, asana, is actually just one of eight limbs of what makes up yoga. Yoga is SO much more than downward dogs and sun salutations. Two of the limbs are the yamas and niyamas and I like to think of these as the book of commandments for yogis – they state how we should act towards ourselves and how we should act in the world towards others. Maybe I’ll share a blog post soon that outlines each one and how we can apply them to our relationship with food and our bodies but for now I’m going to share a few simple ways you can start living out your yoga today.
- Be kind to each and every person you meet. Remember that everyone is fighting their own battle so be gentle, friendly, smile, and engage. You may not realize that taking the tiny effort to smile at a stranger might transform his/her day. We all have so much in common with each other that we’re not even aware of. We all share in the human experience and that is experiencing suffering and joy. Put 20 something yogis in a room during their teacher training and you’ll quickly realize that we’re all fighting our own battles but those battles are a common thread that ties us all together and brings us closer. Have you ever stared into someone’s eyes for 60 seconds? I know that may come off as kind of creepy at first but it’s the most powerful experience I’ve ever shared with others. I did this during a yoga retreat in Costa Rica and then again during yoga teacher training. Let’s just say there was lots of laughter and lots of tears. They say the eyes are the gateway to our souls and so often we avoid eye contact with people when we’re walking down the street as a protection mechanism. But taking the time to look someone in the eyes connects you in a way that’s unexplainable. Make the effort to connect. Make eye contact. Be kind.
- Be present. I think it’s harder today than ever to be present. With technology, smart phones, and social media, it’s challenging to disconnect and be fully present in the moment (read my post on why we should put down our phones and look up). Our biggest epiphanies and a-ha moments happen though when we’re truly present – enlightenment happens when we’re living in the moment. I think mindfulness and being present go hand in hand. How can we be mindful if we’re distracted? How can we be present if we’re not being mindful? So, be mindful. Live in the moment. Observe your surroundings. Be curious. Breathe it in. Look up.
- Practice self-care daily. We often are told to put others before ourselves and that it’s honorable to be selfless. While there’s some truth here, I think it’s important to be selfish too. Because we can’t be our best selves to the people we care for and love if we’re not taking good care of ourselves. Here are a few self-care ideas you might want to start incorporating into your daily life:
- Stay hydrated. Self care doesn’t have to be fancy or expensive! Having enough water throughout the day is a simple but beneficial practice for your body, and, therefore, your energy and mood. Add a squeeze of lemon or lime (or lemonade if you’re like me!) to add flavor if plain water isn’t appealing.
- Stretch it out. You don’t have to flip into a handstand to practice yoga. Physical self care such as gentle stretching and simple yoga poses can help to wake your body up in the morning or relax tired muscles at the end of the day.
- Aim to eat intuitively; include plenty of whole foods, but don’t forget about satisfying fun foods! Caring for your body through food means incorporating the “gentle nutrition” of intuitive eating by being aware of nutrition without rigidity, and avoiding restrictions by including all foods so that you feel satisfied.
- Get enough sleep. I always aim to get at least 7-8 hours of sleep every night (I’m a 9 hour a night kind of gal). Being well rested will help set you up for the next day. If you aren’t cranky and tired, you’re much more likely to be kind, present, mindful, and have the energy to live a full life.
- Give. While it’s important to be a little selfish, we also need to be careful that our ego doesn’t get in the way of our selfishness. To keep your ego in check, take the time to give back to others. Spend time volunteering, coaching, counseling, teaching, loving. One of the reasons I wanted to become a yoga teacher was so that I could help others and give back. This is why I love my nutrition profession so much too – I get to help improve people’s lives every day. If you aren’t in a helping profession, you can volunteer or simply incorporate random acts of kindness!
- View each day as a new adventure. Every time you attend a yoga class and step onto our mat, it’s different. No practice is ever the same. You never know how your body will feel, what poses may feel good or not, you don’t know how it’s going to unfold. Our lives are the same way. Even though your day-to-day may seem routine from time to time, you can approach each and every morning as if the possibilities for how the day will unfold are endless. You can approach each and every day with curiosity and excitement. Without judgement. Not taking it too seriously. Everything you practice on our mat, you can translate to your daily life.
Tell me, how do you live your yoga?
This post was originally published October 2014 but has been updated to give you the best content possible!