Sometimes the best place to practice yoga is off your yoga mat. Interestingly, yoga is a much bigger and encompassing practice than just a physical practice on your mat. In fact, in the Yoga-Sūtra---one of the main yoga texts written by Patañjali around 250 B.C.E---the physical practice is only 1 component of an 8-limbed path. This 8-limbed path, also known as the 8 Limbs of Yoga, weaves together philosophies of body, mind and spirit to help us create a more soulful and meaningful life.
Using the 8 Limbs of Yoga as a guide, here are 3 ways you can practice yoga off your mat:
- Practice Kindness
Ahimsā – is a Sanskrit word (the Yoga-Sūtra was written in Sanskrit) that translates to not harming. It is a component of the yamas, the 1st limb of the 8 Limbs of Yoga. The yamas are ethical principles that clarify our relationship to the world and everything in it and are meant to be practiced with both the mind and body, on a literal level and a compassionate level. For example, the literal level of ahimsā is to not harm people, animals and the environment. On a more compassionate level, ahimsā would ask that you have kind thoughts, words and actions towards yourself and others.
One way to practice ahimsā is to be kind to yourself. Notice the way you talk to yourself and avoid the negative self-talk trap. When you catch yourself thinking something negative, flip it to a positive version. For example, simply turn the thought “I need to lose weight” to “I am beautiful the way I am.” When you treat yourself with loving-kindness, it’s easier to treat others that way, too. Strive to cultivate compassion in the way you think. This will affect your actions and your environment in positive ways.
- Practice Generosity
Aparigrahā – means non-possessiveness and is also a component of the yamas. The practice of aparigrahā does not forbid us from owning things, after all this amazing life is meant to be enjoyed! But when our thoughts and actions are based on greed, it brings a negative cloud over our souls. Whether we are greedy in ways overt (addiction, material cravings) or subtle (the need to be center of attention), it is destructive. Aparigrahā guides us to shift our greed to generosity: do something for someone else instead. Next time you have a craving to take, buy or consume something, stop and sit quietly for a moment and ask yourself why you want it. If you feel a negative emotion about it, such as greed, then let it go. Instead do something generous for someone else.
- Practice Gratitude
Santosha is the feeling of contentment and gratitude. It is one of the niyamas which is the 2nd limb of the 8 Limbs of Yoga that focuses on internal disciplines that teach us to respect ourselves---body, mind and spirit. Santosha invites us to have a mindset of abundance rather than scarcity. It’s knowing that what you have, are, and feel is already good enough and asks you to be grateful for your life the way it is right now. To practice this niyama write down in your journal a list of the things you are grateful for---from a good night’s sleep to the love of your partner. Do this each morning and notice the positive affect it has on your day.
To learn more ways to practice yoga off your mat check out our
8 Limbs of Yoga Practice Cards
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