"When we limit yoga to asana, we limit our mind, body, and spirit. Learn how to tune in to mindfulness in the real world, and commit to yoga on and off the mat."
The other day I found myself tense, crabby, and short-tempered. I kept muttering in various degrees of vehemence, “I need yoga!” The more I repeated this phrase, the more I focused on how stressed I was and the more tense I became. After several rounds of muttering, aloud and to myself, I finally heard another response arise from within—“then do yoga now!” I was caught off guard. I was reminded: I can do yoga anywhere.
When I get stuck to the idea “I need to go to yoga,” I limit yoga to asana, or posture. Many people experience an attachment to the physical practice of yoga. We limit our view to the time we roll out our mats and move our bodies into the various poses. Yet, the asanas are only one form of yoga. They represent the ways we mold ourselves to observe and practice breath work, focus, surrender, and presence of mind.
Yoga as a compass
One of the purposes of getting on our mat is to help us learn to unite mind, body, and spirit off the mat. While on our mat, just as in life, we put ourselves into awkward positions, unconsciously hold our breath, and feed ourselves messages. All the while we observe our behavior, and like we modify our bodies, we modify our actions.
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When we step on our mats, a plethora of experience occurs—we tune in, we tune out, we let the day go, we ruminate on the day, we slam up against our shadow side, we find peace and make peace, we face our regrets, shame, and insecurities—and we come out stronger. On our mats, we mindfully navigate through the layers of emotions, anxiety, stress, and ego that accumulate during our day.
Yoga as a barometer
In yoga, we learn to identify and label sensations we experience in our body. When we tune in, we identify what stress, anger, hostility, and shame feels like in our shoulders, back, neck, and face. We practice and strengthen the tools of breath, focus, presence, acceptance, non-judgment, and compassion to be able to utilize them in our day-to-day life. Therefore, when I find myself muttering that I need yoga—and start getting stressed and angry because I can’t get to class—I can recognize the way my body starts to react to my thoughts. I realize that I am prepared to calm my nerves, soothe my emotions, and relax my body. Within me is the yoga I need.
Yoga is not solely a posture or striking a pose. Yoga is not rolling out your mat. Among a plethora of definitions, yoga is: smiling at a stranger, feeding a cat, noticing your breath, being kind, speaking your truth, and listening to your intuition. We all have our own reasons for getting on our mat but each time we do, we are asked to still our mind, tune into our breath, into our heart, and into our body. Take this mindfulness into the world and live your yoga.
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