A yoga teacher once said to me, “how you do yoga is how you do life.” That statement has stuck with me ever since.
Yoga is a microcosm of the macrocosm of our lives, and a yoga practice is filled with wisdom for those who will hear.
Once you hear and bring into consciousness your patterns of living and doing, yoga can help you decide to do things differently. Through this conscious connection, the magic of yoga begins to work its way through your body and your mind. It eventually moves into your life and the world. Here are 6 questions to consider:
1. When you do yoga, are you respectful to yourself and what you bring to the mat with each practice?
Are you practicing loving-kindness and patience–or do you find yourself being self-critical on the mat? Being aware of what you’re thinking, and then acknowledging those feelings and thoughts, is an opening that will enable you to do things differently.
As you become more aware, you can make a conscious decision to stop criticizing yourself in mid-thought. This prevents you from being counterproductive to your higher self.
You might find a mantra that works for you and use it whenever negative and unproductive thoughts arise. Some examples are “stop,” “no more,” or simply interrupt the thought with the mantra, “I love you.” Then notice what happens.
2. When you do yoga, are you comparing yourself to others and pushing yourself into uncharted territory before you are ready or able?
If so, how does this translate into your life off the mat? Do you struggle to keep up at home, at work, or in school? What would happen if the next time you stepped on the mat, you made a commitment to not compare or compete with anyone else? What if you could keep your focus on your breath? How do you think you would feel?
Once you are able to accomplish this focus consistently, try taking it off the mat. What would happen if you didn’t have the latest trends or most elaborate lifestyle? Living a more simple life might create needed space physically and mentally. It could give you more freedom to do what you truly love to do.
3. When you do yoga, do you listen to your body for cues on how far to go?
What if you began to get connected to your body in a way you haven’t been able to before? What if you began truly listening to the cues of your inner knowing, and surrender more often to that internal compass inside? Once accomplished on the mat, what if you took this listening off the mat and sat quietly, allowing yourself to hear the stirrings of your soul?
What if instead of planning your next activity in your head, you were able to truly listen to your spouse, significant other, or best friend as they share their time and their hearts with you?
4. When you do yoga and are challenged in a pose, do you soften into it and allow your body an opportunity to let go? Or do you harden as you try to push your way through?
What if instead of tightening, you were able to loosen into a more difficult pose or sequence in your class? Try breathing into each pose and allow your body’s wisdom and your breath to guide you softly and knowingly.
What if the next time someone yelled at you, or cut you off in traffic you softened into it with your breath? Utilizing the skills you have gained in your practice by softening on the mat.
5. When you do yoga, do you hold your breath when the going gets tough on the mat?
This is one of the biggest comments I hear from new students, and it was a big one for me. I had held my breath for most of my adult life. Being largely unconscious and going through the motions, I had no idea what I was missing out on and what kind of price my body was paying for it. As I began doing yoga, I learned that holding my breath stopped the flow of vital energy in my body.
What if you began to be aware of your breath during your practice? Can you then take that deep breathing practice off the mat and into your day-to-day life? What if no matter what was going on, you remembered to just breathe?
6. When you do yoga, does your mind go into overdrive on the mat as you plan your next event or review your to-do list?
What if you began to experience a moment of quiet on the mat? What if you were able – just a little bit – to slow down the crazy activity of the mind? Sure, some days are better than others, but what if? What if you took that ability off the mat and were able to sit quietly, just for a bit, allowing your body to recalibrate and to heal?
We all want to “be the change.” Yoga can help us with that. Because yoga is a lifelong practice of learning, growing, engaging, and transforming, there is no need (nor is it appropriate) to try to do it all at once. If you find yourself in that spot, refer to numbers 1-6 and take a deep breath, soften, quiet your mind, really listen, and let go of any need to compete. Respect yourself enough to stop judging as you find some loving kindness for the ride!
May your yoga practice light the way for your personal transformation, and may we all transform the world, one practice at a time.