A yoga mat is a 2′ x 5′ escape from the world. It gives you the space to breathe, flex, and unplug. A daily meditation and yoga practice is grounding and restorative. The lessons we learn on the mat are meant to carry us through the day when we need a little help staying centered. Today I want to share a few things from my yoga practice over the years to help you take your yoga practice off the mat and into life.
1. Your anchor comes from within.
Your anchor cannot come from the outside, other people or worldly sources. To become grounded, you must look within yourself and find your anchor point. Without an anchor, you become susceptible to any forces around you. It becomes difficult to control your emotions, feelings, and actions. Your anchor leads you to balance, focus, and clarity. Finding and depending on your anchor is active. It does not happen on accident, and you can lose sight of it with neglect. One of my favorite quotes from author Greg McKeown is “if you do not prioritize your life, someone else will.” Finding your anchor gives you clarity to decide what is important to you and make active choices relative to your priority.
Life will bring fire.When the heat comes, lean in. Tapas carries various meanings depending on which yogi you ask. Some definitions include “purification through discipline”, “commitment”, and “internal fire”. Embrace the challenges of life and appreciate that struggle makes you stronger. Sometimes the fire we feels isn’t from an external hardship, but rather it can be a passion ignited inside of us. When the heat comes, lean in. In this case, embrace your calling for growth and improvement. An internal passion may bring some outside resistance as well. Use your tapas to become more disciplined, focused, and grounded in your anchor.
3. Consider it done.
When you desire change in yourself, speak it and consider it done. Don’t tell yourself that you will be better. Tell yourself that you are, and be better. Positivity and certainty in your energy is far more effective than scolding yourself. Lean on your anchor for support. If you desire calm, tell yourself that you are a calm person. If you desire strength, tell yourself that you are a strong person. Repeat your mantra over and over until you live it easily. With practice, your emotions can become intentional instead of reactive (This is an insanely mind blowing revelation, I know. Maybe soon I’ll do a post about how this relates to stress. Yes? Any takers?).
4. Balance is essential.
We’re all familiar with the popular “work-life balance” conversation; however, there is more to a balanced life than setting boundaries on your work hours (although, that’s important, too!). Aim for balance in every aspect of your life like diet, fitness, sleep, quiet time, finances, and relationships. If that sounds overwhelming, pick one place to start and start with small changes. Practice setting new boundaries and achieving small goals. Raise the bar as you progress.
5. First, control your breath.
When life starts getting out of control around you, first control your breath. Your breath is an anchor point and is connected to the entire body system. Mastery of the breath is the first step to mastery of the body. In this day and age, so many stressors put us into edge-of-your-seat fight-or-flight mode 24/7 when in reality, we’re never actually in real, physical danger. An exercise as simple as breathing in for 3 counts and out for 5 is relaxing and helps coax your body out of fight or flight mode while putting you back in control.
No one can breathe for you, and control of you breath is secret and silent from the outside. Focusing on your breath is the first step to finding your center. It forces you to notice your body and your response to outside stimulation. You can evaluate how you feel, and then change it. Once you take control of your breath and your body, you can take control of your surroundings.
6. Progress not perfection.
Start with where you are, and accept your starting point. Perfection is an impossible goal. Moving forward, improving, and getting things done is far more important than trying to make things perfect. You have limited energy and must spend it wisely. Choose to spend it on achieving goals rather than quibbling over unimportant, perfectionist details. Some suggest that it takes 20% of your energy is spent on 80% of a project or task. If 80% completes the task, even with some details imperfect, is it always worth any more energy to get to 100% perfect? Usually the answer is no. You’ll have to decide for yourself on a case-by-case basis. But even if you can use the 80/20 rule on the majority of your projects, you’ll save yourself tons of energy along the way.
7. Live in the moment.
You only ever exist right now. Your time is precious, so remain in the present rather than dwelling on things past or things to come. If your energy is diverted between your current task and a task that has not been delegated for the current time, you lose so much productivity. Using mindfulness practices will save your energy, time, and well-being. When it is time to work, work. When it is time for rest, rest. When it is time for play, play. If you stress about work during your time for rest, you get no rest and no work done. If you play during time for work, you get no work done and probably don’t feel as relaxed and joyful during play. Worry and anticipation are fruitless energy sinks. “And which of you by being anxious can add a signal hour to his span of life? Matt 6:27”
8. You create your own space.
Saying “yes” is a choice. You never have to say “yes”. You can only have one priority (literally one), and you are allowed to say “no” to anything that is not truly your priority. If you divide your energy between 10 tasks, you will only complete 10% of each task. If you focus all of your energy into the most important task, you will complete that task with far more ease and in much less time (another thought gem from McKeown). You will accomplish what you actually need to do and make space for other important parts of your life. You can choose to leave your weekends and nights and days void of obligations that are not important to your individual success and happiness. It might take practice, it might feel wrong, and it might be hard, but it is healthy and right.
9. Almost everything is nonessential.
As a follow up to the last point, you will find that as you purge your life of obligations and tasks that are not your single priority, the things you thought were so vital or important or dependent on you are not. Some things don’t have to be done. Some things can be done by someone else. Your time and energy are nonrenewable resources. You get one chance to spend you day wisely. You only have a certain amount of energy to spend on tasks during that day. Spend it on the most important thing. Finish the most important thing. Then start the next most important thing. Multitasking wastes huge amounts of time and energy.
10. How you speak to yourself is reflected in how you speak to others.
Practicing kindness and compassion on yourself makes it easier to be kind and compassionate to others. The way you speak to yourself matters. It changes you mindset, mental health, and even physical health. Positive energy from within gives you courage, strength, and confidence. Never say anything to yourself that you would let your best friend say about herself. When self-directed negative energy builds up, it spills out at other people. Be nice to yourself so you can be nice to others.
Yoga takes practice.
There’s a reason we call it a yoga practice — it takes lots and lots of practice to improve in these areas. Some days are easier than others. But if we glance back up to #6, the goal is progress. Take baby steps forward each day to maintaining a clear mind and stress free outlook. If you are brand new to this or looking for a kickstart, I highly recommended browsing YouTube and trying different styles and teachers to see what suits you best.